Smiling with the Angels…

A friend of mine passed away today. I knew her for several years in college – afterwards, I saw her infrequently, mainly due to distance: we left RI to head in opposite directions – I went off to the Middle East, while Erin headed down south of the border to Mexico.

Erin was just a year older than I am, and full of life and joy. I think the first and last thing I remember about Erin is the same: her smile. She had a contagious smile – the type that got everyone else smiling too, whether they wanted to or not. She had a beautiful laugh – not a guffaw, chuckle or titter, but a clear, ringing laugh that sounded out the purity and joy in her heart.

When I opened Facebook after coming home from work, I was shocked to see posts referring to Erin’s passing. Then, memories of Erin alive, as I’d known her, began flooding in (they haven’t stopped yet…). I thought for a moment, of how hard it must be for her parents, and all of us who knew her that she died so young. But then I thought of something else: maybe Erin was ready. Knowing her joy, her enthusiasm, and her love for God and man, if anyone was ready for heaven, it was Erin.

For many people, death seems like the end, and understandably so. It is the end of what we know – the life we know and love. For those of us that remain, it is the end of our relationship, at least in its present form, with someone we know and love. Yes, maybe we know that they are now in eternal life. Maybe we know that we are still somehow connected to them, that we can talk to them… But the reality is… we cry. We miss them. No matter what we know to be true, our heart feels a loss, an absence. The person is no longer her as we knew them – we can’t look into their eyes or hear their voice the same way. We can’t call them, visit them or go for a walk with them. And so, it seems like an end.

Mourning is something beautiful. It is a final way, in this life, of communicating the depth of one’s love toward someone else. It is a farewell embrace, and a commemoration of the beauty of this life, as seen in the life story of the departed. That life story is full of laughs and tears, frustrations and joys, successes and struggles. Mourning is something both personal and communal – it reflects our personal love for the departed, but it also reflects the communal reality of man – we relate to each other on all levels. We miss the other person because of a deep connection we felt with them. We related to their joys and sorrows, their thoughts and actions, their feelings, and took them upon ourselves because even though we are individuals, we are also united as children of God, and members of the same Body of Christ.

I think that this reality of the communal nature of man, of the deep relationships we form, can afford us some comfort when faced with tragedies like this. We know that we will never forget them. We know that they will always seem present in our lives, through their memory and their spirit, even years after they have left, because they have become a part of us and live on through us. I believe that the same is true of reverse. We also became a part of them. Just as they remain here through us, a part of us goes with them to heaven, because we are in their heart and their mind. Every death of a loved one takes away something from us here, but brings us closer to heaven. On this earth, we have an even playing ground. When a loved one dies and goes to heaven, they become stronger than us, so their love for us takes on a new meaning. They are with Jesus now, so all our intentions that are embedded in their hearts are right with Jesus now too.

Much as we will miss Erin, God makes no mistakes. I am sure he took her now, because the world could no longer contain her. Her love, enthusiasm and joy was too strong. It increased daily, and the limits of her earthly being could only contain so much. I am sure God took her now because her love and joy was so great that it burst through the limits of her body, taking her soul to a new dimension where her love and joy can know no bounds. I am sure that, if she did die of a heart attack, it was not because her heart was under functioning, but because it was over-functioning. Joy is something spiritual, a sharing in divine life, and a connection between our world and heaven. When we experience a profound joy, we are reaching out of the fallen nature that surrounds us and grasping a piece of heaven. Erin grasped that piece of heaven continually during this life, and constantly, passed it out to the rest of us, and kept longing for more. Last night, she grasped heaven and decided not to let go. I am sure that she is smiling and laughing just as we knew her, only now, she is smiling with angels.

Erin, rest in peace, and know that you are greatly missed. Prayers will continue to be offered for you and for strength for your loved ones in these difficult moments…

Going Home

(William Arms Fisher)

Going home, going home,
I’m a going home.
Quiet-like, some still day,
I’m just going home.
It’s not far, just close by,
Through an open door.
Work all done, care laid by,
Going to fear no more.
Mother’s there, expecting me,
Father’s waiting too.
Lots of folk gathered there,
All the friends I knew.

Nothing’s lost, all’s gain,
No more fear or pain,
No more stumbling by the way,
No more longing for the day,
Going to roam no more.

Morning star lights the way,
Restless dreams all done.
Shadows gone, break of day,
Real life has begun.
There’s no break, there’s no end,
Just a living on.
Wide awake with a smile,
going on and on…

Going home, going home,
I’m just going home.
It’s not far, just close by,
Through an open door.
I am going home…..
I’m just going home….

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