Death is not a joyful mystery. Perhaps it should be.
Don't get me wrong, only with very extenuating circumstances will we find joy in the death of anyone, especially a loved one. I have missed my mom every day in the 21 months since she passed away. Yet, as I reflect, it was at least partly selfish of me to have asked for a miraculous cure of her brain cancer then.
And it would be even more selfish of me now to beg God to bring her back from what I assume is her eternal happiness.
"After this life ... you (can) see God clearly and truly as He is in Himself," St. Robert Bellarmine said, "and you will possess Him and enjoy Him far better and more intimately than you now enjoy created things."
Why wouldn't I want my mom to enjoy God that way? Why would any of us want anything less for those we love? Maybe the heartbreak among us "created things" makes it difficult to understand the joy experienced by those likely enjoying the presence of the Lord.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states "heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness."
So, the goal of earthly life should be attaining holiness while glorifying God in order to spend eternity basking in His presence.
Cory Fisk might be a new saint. He celebrated his 17th birthday late last year. Forty-seven days later, Cory died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle-automobile accident. My wife and I attended his funeral Mass on an unusually warm late-February day in St. Louis, along with several hundred other mourners trying to figure out why such a promising young man had to leave so soon.
Timmy Bulus was 2 years 4 months old when he died this past December. Timmy's unexpected death left his parents, Moses and Grace, in shock, as well as their friends. That includes my son, Josh, who participated in the wedding of Moses and Grace several years ago in Nigeria.
We have all prayed often about such situations, that we or our loved ones may avoid such calamities. Those prayers might sound a lot like what we read in Psalm 86, one written by King David that begins: "Incline your ear, LORD, and answer me."
"LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help. On the day of my distress I call to you, for you will answer me. ... LORD, help and comfort me" (verses 6,7,17).
The families of Timmy and Cory don't know each other. They likely never will meet. But they share a common, overpowering attitude: They miss their loved ones a great deal.
We weren't ready for my mom to leave us, either. Given the choice, my dad, sisters and perhaps all her family and friends would take her back for more time here. I have a feeling the same goes for Cory, Timmy, my friend Janet, who died at 17 when we were in high school; my cousin Gary, who died at 9 a year before that; and so many others I have known.
Yes, I have missed them. Yes, their deaths were heart-rending and tragic. But because of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we should take great hope and comfort in knowing they're happier now than they ever could be here. That's a message to ponder during Lent.
"If love, even human love, gives so much consolation here, what will love not be in heaven?" St. Josemaria Escriva asked.
The Church never presumes, even with firm speculation, whether a person has gone to heaven or hell or even purgatory once they have died. The Church doesn't judge the status of anyone's soul at that moment. But knowing what I do about these particular people, I would be surprised if they aren't living it up right now in heavenly bliss.
Considering that alternative, it's indeed selfish of us to want our loved ones to live here longer. Why should we ask any of them to leave eternal paradise, the constant presence of the Lord, the beatific vision alongside the angels and saints?
In heaven, St. Augustine said, "good will shall be so ordered in us that we shall have no other desire than to remain there eternally."
Timmy, Cory, my mom and so many others — we miss them, but they've gone to a truly home sweet home. And they're happily awaiting the rest of us.
To say the least, there's no place like home.
Eisenbath is a member of St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles.RELATED ARTICLE(S):Man of the House | A place to ‘kick back and be with God’