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)
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!