We can learn a lot from the wisdom of Fall. After a big celebration of colors, the trees let go of their leaves because they are no longer needed. Fall reminds us that we too need to let go sometimes. We thrive and grow the most when we learn to let go. Mother Church in her wisdom knew that for us to thrive and grow in our spiritual life we would need structure. The liturgical calendar provides us that structure by leading us through the different seasons of the liturgical year.
The recurring themes in the Church’s liturgy during the month of November invites us to draw closer to God and to reflect on the work God has done in us. The prayers and readings focus on death, judgment, hell, and purgatory with special attention on the Communion of Saints. As the Liturgical Year comes to a closing we as Catholics are called to consider our final days. We are called to meditate and pray for those who have gone before us.
Meditating and praying for those who have gone before me is something I unfortunately have been doing a lot of as of late. I lost both of my parents this year. No one is ever prepared to lose a parent. Let alone lose both parents within a two month span.
Dad had been sick with dementia for about nine years with the last few of those years being very challenging. Mostly for him of course, but also for my mom, who was his main caregiver. My mom patiently watched the man she married when she was only 19 years old lose his ability to do the most mundane of daily tasks, like buttoning his shirt and needing help bathing.
When I received a call from one of my brothers in May telling me that Dad had taken yet another bad fall and was once again in the hospital, I knew that this was not a good thing. We had been down that road a few times already. What I didn't know was this time was different- dad would not be coming back home. Dad’s body was shutting down after years of dealing with the terrible disease of dementia. The Lord called him home two days after being admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, due to the fact of living in another country, I was not able to come home in time to say goodbye before he passed but I was there for his funeral. I stayed in Brazil for about a week after dad’s passing, mourning his loss and making sure mom was okay. She surprised us by accepting everything with peace. She knew dad was in a better place and was no longer suffering.
What I could never have imagined or anticipated was that my mom would also be called to be with the Lord soon after. Excruciating pain doesn’t even describe what I felt when just 8 weeks after dad’s passing I was once again on a plane going to Brazil. The nine hour flight from Charlotte to Sao Paulo was the longest nine hours ever. My mom had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and kidney failure and passed away peacefully before I arrived in Brazil. Once again I was not able to say my goodbyes in person! Words can’t even begin to express the sorrow I felt. Mom had been my world! Everything good in me came from this amazing unselfish woman that taught me so many things, including how to love unconditionally and sacrificially.
How do you heal and go on after losing both of your parents so close together? How do you reconcile with the fact that the two people who brought you into the world and loved you unconditionally are now both gone? This kind of loss leaves you feeling like your whole foundation was ripped apart right from under you.
Acknowledging God’s goodness even in the midst of suffering
As painful as this past summer was, I still hold onto the truth that I know God is good. He has been there for me in ways only He could. The love of my family, my friends, and my faith has played a huge part in my grieving process. Grief is a funny thing- some days I can look at my parents picture and happily smile as I reflect back on the legacy they left for me, my ten siblings, their many grandchildren, and those who were privileged to get to know them. Other days, I miss them so much I could scream.
The fact that I’m writing about this painful season so soon after going through it is a confirmation of God’s goodness. He wants me to heal from the loss of my parents. Just like the tree letting go of those leaves, I know the Lord is calling you and I to let go of the pain from losing a loved one just long enough that we can savor all the beautiful things they left behind.
I miss my parents dearly and daily! I don’t want the wonderful memories to ever go away and I intend to hold them thigh to make sure of that. I constantly feel my parents' presence around me. I find myself listening to the music I grew up singing along with my mom as I helped her around the house. More and more I crave the foods she used to make for us growing up. I cherish the memory of my dad fondly telling me that I was just like his beloved grandmother- the woman who raised him. It was easy to see how much he loved and respected her every time he talked about her. My dad came from a generation of men who didn’t know how to show affection but in a way the fact that he thought and voiced that I was just like his beloved grandmother was his way of saying that he loved me.
Finding comfort in Jesus
If you are dealing with this kind of pain, I pray that you’ll find peace and comfort in knowing that the good Lord is right beside you as you go through this difficult season. Jesus knows your pain for He too cried when He found out his friend Lazarus had died (John 11:35). This demonstrates our Lord’s loving nature, His compassion for people.
Allow yourself some time and space to mourn. When I arrived back home from Brazil after my mom's passing I was in a bad place. Some days I just wanted to stay in bed and not have to face the fact that I had just lost both of my parents. I will forever be grateful to all my dear friends who were so good about checking in on me, sending flowers, and making delicious meals for my family as we all dealt with the loss of my beloved parents.
Knowing that Jesus wept over Lazarus’s death gives me hope that even though I’m still in the middle of mourning the loss of my parents, I can, by the grace of God, at the same time look forward with anticipation to the new liturgical year that starts with my favorite season in the Church - Advent Season!