When our time has come
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
No one knows when the Father calls us home. Death cannot be
predicted with certainty. Sometimes for people under doctors' care, the physicians have an idea when this time comes but even they do not know precisely when. Only God knows. We need to prepare
ourselves. Many young people do not think about death, because they are so alive. When we have strayed from our belief-base then it is good to examine ourselves and think, quite rightly, that life
does not go on forever.
These reflections are read by everyone, people from all over the world, who speak different languages, and probably aren't all devout people. That's OK. We all have our own way of answering to God, and some do not believe in God but that, too, is their right. To a Catholic and to Christians in general, and probably to many more people, death means a transition to another life. A life with God in a place that is Holy. And for the rest of the people, perhaps Heaven has no meaning at all. But as human beings we still face a cessation of life as we know it, and we do not know when this cessation of life will begin.
Some people pass away when they are young, and not even because of sickness. "Natural Death" just happens. There is a reason to be sure, but we are not to know what it is. More people, however, pass away when they are older. Some die as the result of violence, fights, gunshots, war, car accidents, and even, tragically, from ricocheting bullets that weren't even meant for them. Peacefully, many go to God in their sleep.
It is natural that family members, parents, spouses, siblings, mourn for a long time after the death of a relative or close friend. The burial of the deceased, though for many a sign of closure, affects people differently. For a sister or brother, husband or wife, or son and daughter, that "closure" is only the beginning of an extended period of private grief. That's particularly so if the death was sudden and unexpected. It is important to allow people to mourn as they wish. One cannot expect this mourning period to suddenly be over, and it is not healthy for the bereaved to face an emotional cutoff as it were. Mourning is a process, and it should be left to run its course.
If you are with relatives or friends who are in mourning, quiet hugs, words of comfort and a lot of prayer will help immensely. Saying such, oft unthinking, thoughts as "He's better off where he is now," while undoubtedly true, does not help at all. I would find it rather unfeeling of another person to be told that my loved one is better off in Heaven when I haven't gotten over not having him by my side anymore. It is better to say nothing, or just "I am sorry for your loss" than to say something stupid.
People who have never dealt with personal grief, or are unfeeling and cannot handle grief, cannot fully understand all the ramifications of a parent losing a son or daughter in a far-away war. Or a wife losing a husband, or a husband losing a wife in a comparable situation. We wonder if he or she suffered but we'll never know, and perhaps this is for the best. It is better to remember a relative or friend in their happier times in a family setting, than in the sad times in life, that is, if we can do that. If we had a relative or friend who died after many years of suffering in a hospital or nursing home, think of them when they smiled, and if you can't, know that they are smiling now.
I have experienced the death of both parents. Dad passed away in the 1960's when there was no cure (e.g. transplants) for kidney cancer. Mom went to her reward twenty years later after four bitter years with mental problems leading into Alzheimers’ Disease, pneumonia and death. I was with Dad when he died, having rushed back to New York from Germany where I was in the U.S. Army at the time. Mom passed away at night so I could not be present. It was not unexpected but a matter of not knowing just which night of that week death would overtake her.
I attended services and burials for many friends and acquaintances, and now, as a member of a small choir group that sings at a Mass of Christian Burial in the Catholic Church, I often participate in this way at the last ceremonies for people I have not known. To some degree I always feel the emotion of the moment and think of what is to happen to myself when the time has come. Will I be ready? Can I be admitted into Heaven? I have an immense desire to be with Jesus, Mary, and St. Francis of Assisi and so many others, and with the Father, yet just as the time of transition is a mystery to all but God, will we be ready to make the journey?
In this most difficult of times, I pray that you, the reader of this reflection, may be ready when your time has come. Always be ready. Make every day count as if it was your last, because some day will, indeed, be your last day. May God bless you, that day! May He tell you, 'You have loved your neighbor and you have loved Me, come, my good and faithful servant. Be always at my side.'
As for me, I would just be happy to find a place in the vestibule of Heaven; just a little spot for a faithful Franciscan brother.
October 18, 2007 rev. 5/2017
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS