A very good friend of mine died this last week. Brother Donald was a member of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and perhaps one of the most beautiful, gentle-souled people I have ever met. (Read Psalm 15 if you want to know Brother Don’s qualities and personal make-up.) I was blessed to call him friend. We shared many good times, as well as tears, faith, and friendship over the years. I looked to him for advice and counsel. I could always count on him to put things into perspective. In every aspect of living consecrated life he was an inspiration and a holy example. Together, rest assured, we would have made one great contestant on Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. As solo contestants we knew we had no chance, but together we knew we were unstoppable. He was crazy funny, in an unassuming way, and his heavy New York accent constantly cracked me up. I can’t believe I won’t hear his voice again.
In my grief and tears I was struck by the second reading at Mass this weekend. It spoke to me and broke through my heartache. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians said, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13). Yes, in my sadness I must remember that Jesus died and rose, opening the Gates of Heaven. Yet, I am sure that my human sadness in losing my friend does not take away my belief in the promise of Eternal Life. Assuredly, grief is a part of death as is the consolation of knowing the dead will be raised.
Faith is believing that Jesus’ resurrection really does have consequences for us and for Brother Don. We may not understand or know the details of how this plays out. But, we can be sure that just as “Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him all those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thes 4:14). Everyone of us has the hope of heaven!
Right now, I am caught in the paradox of death. I am in the pain of losing my friend while at the same time, I’m overjoyed at the idea of Brother Don having the full experience of the love of the Sacred Heart. All too much for my simple mind to comprehend!
Blessed be his memory.