One thing about the church, we know how to talk about death in a way no one else does. We see it as pretty much inevitable.
When we understand death’s certainty, then we cannot be cavalier about life. Death is a reality around which none of us like to linger long, but this reality defines life whether we like to ponder it or not. It is a truth from which we cannot escape.
Some fear death will come before they have completed life. In a thoughtful and reflective poem on this very idea, John Keats wrote:
“When I have fears that I may cease to be before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain—”
Before his death in 1981, writer, William Saroyan phoned in to the Associated Press an interesting observation: “Every body has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. What now?” There are no exceptions. I have a friend who ends all emails with: “I intend to live forever – so far, so good.” With what thoughts may we fortify ourselves when we contemplate death – our own and others?
The Christian faith teaches that life is not over when we die. There is a special day in the Christian calendar called All Saints Day (which falls on November 1 – next Tuesday) when we profess our faith in an on-going relationship between those who have died and those who are living. We are touched when we remember friends and loved ones who have outrun us to heaven, but the concept of the “Communion of Saints” (see Apostles’ Creed) suggests that there is an on-going spiritual relationship between those who are dead and those who are living. Just as we believe that Jesus, who was dead and is now alive continues to touch our lives, so we believe that our friends and loved ones who have died are now alive and continue to touch our lives. Many find great comfort in that idea.
So instead of Halloween candy, feast on the fact that there are many saints who have gone before us—and thank God for them!