There she lay on the hospital bed, in the intensive care unit… her face looked the same, except slightly disfigured by the tube inside her mouth. 

I moved closer so she could hear me. The nurse said she was certain the only faculty still active in her was her hearing.

I introduced myself as her long-lost friend and told her how happy I was to see her again and to know she was well taken care of. 
What happened next convinced me she really did hear and recognize my voice.

She moved her upper body upwards as if wanting to welcome me and hug me. 
I acknowledged her efforts and started praying for her. In the middle of the prayer, I saw a precious, little tear fall from her right eye.

A week after the visit, my friend Eileen, was back where she started… in  the heart of God, blissful in the presence of the Lord she loved and served so well in her family, in her church, and in her community.

This is my most significant story of loss this year.

Rarely a year passes by that we do not encounter the death of someone we love. And it is so hard to say goodbye each time this happens. 
When Eileen cried a tear, I knew my heart was rent apart too. That was to be our last meeting, our last encounter, our last word to each other.

This time of the year, we remember departed loved ones. The start of November is significant for the annual visit to the cemetery and the whole month continues the loving prayers for their souls.

The gospel today (Lk 20:34-38) describes for us what happens beyond this world we know. In it the Lord Jesus, Master of Life and Eternal Life, opens the vista of our future union with him in heaven.

The Lord says that in heaven, there is marriage no longer. In fact, we know that plainly from the vows of marriage: “til death do us part.” 
Death signals the end of marriage. That is why a widow becomes free to entertain a new lover; a widower free to pursue another partner.

Souls in heaven do not need marriage because marriage is an earthly sacrament of God’s love. In heaven, this love is already so real, so powerful, so magnificent, so direct, that the soul needs no one else to love except the Lord. 
I do not know if the Lord calls souls in heaven as Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so.

Souls are not known in heaven as couples, but as sons and daughters before the throne of the Father; that’s certain in our gospel today.

Then Jesus says that those in heaven no longer die but live like angels. 
What do angels do in heaven? 
The Book of Revelation describes angels as surrounding God’s throne, singing his praise, worshipping him and pleasing him without end. If you live like that, you have a busy, busy but meaningful life. For that is the reason why we were created, to receive and reciprocate God’s love.

Finally the Lord prophesies that souls in heaven will one day rise again. Remember the Creed we pray each Sunday? “We believe in the resurrection of the body…” At the end of time, when all things are fulfilled according to God’s plan, Jesus will return to preside at the resurrection of his faithful ones.

The Bible says that Jesus is the first fruits of the Resurrection and one day, we will follow him, experiencing glory in the way he did before us. That is not a dream, a wish, or a hope. That is the promise of the Lord.

All these will happen to souls who enter heavenly rest. And it is here on earth that we prepare for this heavenly dwelling.

My friend Eileen survived the challenges of a difficult marriage, brought up singlehandedly her kids, and served her parish and community with a faithfulness that could only come from a strong faith. I remember her always smiling, positive, and encouraging. At the end of her life, badly beaten by illness, she remained trusting and hopeful in the Lord.

While I have to say goodbye in pain, I knew I had to say to her “Congratulations!” too, for finally reaching the goal of her life – life with Jesus forever!

This month, in our me-time, our prayer time, our silent time, may we at least pause and consider how we live our lives, how we want it to end in this world, and how we prepare to revel in the joy of the Lord in heaven one day…

(please share to a friend…)