Today is my father's birthday. If he were alive he would be 88 years old. I think of him often in the autumn of the year, not only because that's when his birthday was, but also because that was when he was taken away from me. Sometimes I find it depressing, but not always. I suppose it's depressing on those occasions when I wonder what it would be like to have had a father, or whether I would be a better father myself if I had had one around to serve as a model. It's not so depressing when I remember that nothing lasts forever. People die, and plenty of people have been through a lot worse in their lives than I've been through, so I have plenty to be grateful for. Some children lose their parents earlier in life than I lost mine; some never know their parents; some are killed in the womb by their parents. Things could be worse.
In the epistle reading for Mass today St. Paul tells us that the dead shall be raised first, and "we who are still alive" will be with the Lord always after that. His instructions are explicit: we are to be comforted by this message, the message that all of us--Church Militant and Church Triumphant--will be together in the Lord for all eternity. The Beatific Vision is enriched, at least for us imperfect creatures, by the plurality of souls that we shall be a part of in the heavenly host. Just as the Trinity is a community, so are we, and we experience God's essence most fully when we experience our own sort of community.
Two weeks from Tuesday will be the fortieth anniversary of my father's death. I was only 7, but I remember the day quite vividly. Events like the loss of a parent become a part of one's being, because they are unforgetable and they shape who and what we are. Nineteen years later I lost my mother, and as different as I had become from that 7 year old boy, my life was changed again in a dramatic way.
November is the traditional time for remembrance of the dead and, sure enough, I tend to do a lot of remembering during this most memorable (for me) month. But I also do a lot of looking forward--I'm not sure what, exactly, I'm looking forward to, since I really have no idea what things will be like once I am called from this life. But I imagine that, whatever it's like, it won't be bad. That's not intended to sound hubristic, as though I know I'm bound for heavenly glory. Rather it's an endorsement of St. Thomas More's striking words, written in his last weeks in the Tower of London: "and if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy."