A Few Positive Words about Death
Soon we will be entering the month of November, a rather melancholy month for me. Where I live the days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, the trees are almost bare, and we’ve already experienced the annual shock of our first snowfall.
Adding to the melancholy is Halloween. (I know, kids love this day because they get to dress up and beg for candy. Even I enjoy the dressing up part of Halloween!) As you may know, the word Halloween comes from “hallowed eve,” that is, the eve before the feast of all the “hallowed ones,” that is, all the saints. But let’s face it, in our culture the feast of All Saints on November 1 is completely eclipsed by Halloween on October 31 with its vast array of ghosts, goblins, scary pumpkins, witches, skeletons, tombstones, and bats. And immediately after the great feast of All Saints, we have the commemoration of the “poor souls” on November 2, which only adds to the melancholy of the month.
Yes, the motif for November seems to be death. Maybe that’s why we (in the States, at least) put Thanksgiving Day in November—to add a bit of warmth and cheer to the month. Nonetheless this time of year is an appropriate time to reflect on death—but not in a gloomy or scary way. Rather, in a way that is rooted in faith. So here are some rather positive quotes about death followed by one positive image from my personal life.
1) “Death is not the extinguishing of a light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.” (anonymous)
2) Do not seek death…But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” (Dag Hammarskjold)
3) “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” (Erma Bombeck)
4) “Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.” (David Searls)
5) “I look at life as a gift from God. Now that God wants it back, I have no right to complain.” (Joyce Cary)
6) “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” (anonymous)
7) “For it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.” (St. Francis of Assisi)
8) “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” (Jesus: Jn. 11:25)
And now for the image of death. This is an excerpt from my newly re-issued book, Everyday Epiphanies: Rediscovering the Sacred in Everything. It’s entitled “Heaven is coming home”:
On my way home from the meeting, I decide to stop in and see Mom and Dad. It’s a cold, dark November evening. Suppertime. As I pull into the driveway, I see lights on in the kitchen. Through the window I spot Dad in his red plaid flannel shirt, sitting at the table with his newspaper. Mom, wearing an apron, is standing by the stove stirring something—homemade leek soup, perhaps. Dad, catching sight of me through the window, smiles and stands up stiffly and slightly stooped. As I step onto the back porch, Dad opens the door wide and announces cheerfully, “Well, look who’s here!” And I step into the warmth of that kitchen and into the warmth of their embraces.
That’s what it’s going to be like when I die and enter heaven. It will be like stepping out of the cold and darkness, into the warmth and brightness of a homey kitchen, with Mom and Dad there waiting for me. And they will both smile when they see me and open wide their arms. And Dad will say cheerfully, “Well, look who’s here!”
Do any of the quotes on death speak to you today?
Do you have a favorite quote about death or a favorite image of entering heaven?
PS Once again I ask for your prayers for a retreat I’m leading this coming weekend at Villa Maria Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, PA. It’s entitled “Holiness is Wholeness.” Thank you very much!
What a great topic as we approach November. Thanks Sister Melannie!
That last story of welcoming home by loving parents was my favorite. The idea of stepping out of the darkness into a warm, loving embrace is just perfect image for death. Something to ponder.
Thank you Sr Melanie. I am so glad that I found your blog! November does seem like a dark month (and we in NE Ohio also get a time change). I tend to get cranky not being able to ride my bike outside anymore, but you know, my mother-in-law, who will turn 94 on Nov 23 sets my attitude straight. Her advice: “Count your blessings every day”.
Recently I was told that I have prostrate cancer and the diagnosis will ultimately lead me to death. It was then that I also realized, perhaps for the first time, that God really did have a plan for my life, one which would bring me through death into new life with Him and it became a cause for rejoicing!
Your reflection brought tears to my eyes. I could just imagine your mom and dad in the house welcoming you. What a beautiful image of heaven! Thank you.
Very comforting, I really enjoyed this article, thank you Sister. Your image of heaven is inspiring.
Your story and metaphor about the warm kitchen and heaven are beautiful. I, too, had tears. Thanks for sharing such a lovely image. God bless!
I am currently reading “Everyday Epiphanies” as part of my morning scriptural/devotional/instructional prayer routine. I remember the day I read the story of your Dad saying, “Well, look who’s here” and hoping I might be fortunate enough to hear St Peter (or maybe even God) say that about me. As to your quote #1, I have a prayer card of that very thing, and it is attributed to “Tagore”, whom I confess to know nothing about, but am comforted by the quotation.
I personally love this time of year–looking forward to the cooler weather, snow, and an end to heat/humidity. We are all so different, but are just as God made us.
Thanks for today’s Sunflower! Mary
Thanks Sister Melanie…………….I only found Sunflower Sees today. What a blessings. I remember celebrating your Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary so many years ago. Your description of meeting them once again was so vivid. I could picture their faces and feel their embraces.
I will look forward to hearing from you each week at Sunflower Seeds.
Jane and Ed
Sr. Melanie –
I too loved your vision of death as seen within the context of your loving parents. At my younger brother’s funeral this year we used the analogy of those of us still living saying goodbye to him as he leaves the shore in a boat crossing a large body of water. On the opposite shore are those that have gone before us saying “here he comes!”
I love your image of the homecoming. It is especially comforting today as my friend Ray ended his battle with cancer this morning, Sunday. I can imagine the homecoming Ray had with his infant son, my brother and all the rest of those who have gone before him. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Thank you for the gift of spiritual help. Your an answered prayer.