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The Ashes of Memories
by Maria Franco
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“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” Isaiah 26:19

In life it is always difficult to let go of our loved ones. We tend to cling to them even after they have passed away. We all know that life on earth is temporary and the world to come is eternal, We know that Death is not the end but the start of a new life with the Lord. We profess a Christian faith which has the promise of the resurrection. Yet, human as we are, we find it difficult to accept the loss of a loved one. We cannot believe that they are no more. We feel defeated and embittered with grief. Destiny seems to have been unfair to us with an unexpected timing. We are somehow hopeful until a person’s last breath that they will make it and live on. A part of our soul goes along with their departure and we feel we shall never be the same again. It becomes so traumatic to change our pattern of prayer from praying for their well being to the repose of their soul. We have to change the train of our thought and make our mind accept the reality that our loved ones are still very much alive in another world.

It makes us pause and wonder as to what is life all about? One moment we are here and the next we are gone. We make plans for the future that someday things will fall in place but maybe that someday might never come in life. The present moment is after all the breath of life. What the next hour will hold no one knows. When we meet our loves ones who are far away and the time comes to leave, we wonder whether life will give us an opportunity to meet again or would that be the final farewell? If destiny will allow us to walk once more on some paths in this lifetime. We hold on to the final words that were spoken. The sound of a familiar voice which is embalmed forever in our hearts. We wish we could have spent a longer time with them. We now realize that we had so much more to tell them and voice our feelings. We now owe it to the souls to keep their remembrance alive until we meet them again when our own time comes. It is those who are left behind that feel the most loneliness and sorrow. Those who have ascended into Heaven now rest in the bosom of the Father.

The Month of November is dedicated to Souls. The souls of the faithful departed, the souls who are in Purgatory awaiting to be released to Heaven. They all depend on our prayers. On their own, they can do nothing for themselves but we can do all for them from the earth below. They can however in turn pray for us to God on our behalf. Perpetual Masses offered to souls, and Spiritual works of Mercy aid the souls and it is our Christian duty to do all we can to help them.

A Christian perspective of death is not about leaving the world but about arriving at the eternal home. It is not a separation but an everlasting reunion with our loved ones who have gone before us marked with the sign of peace. It is not a light that has been put out but rather it is about not requiring any lamp at all because the Great day has dawned which shines with the very brightness of Heaven, clothed with the light of the Son of God. Until that day rises over the horizon, we will allow our hearts to burn for the One who was pierced for us, we will recall His own hour of death. The words of the hymn – ‘Above All’ depicts the Lord’s loneliness and grim death; “ Crucified and laid behind the stone, You lived to die rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall and thought of me above all.”

When we mourn, the Lord also weeps and mourns along with us. During his life on earth, He too wept and grieved for the family of Martha & Mary at the death of Lazarus whom he later raised to life. He was moved to compassion when He raised the widow’s dead son as He could not bear to see the Mother’s tears. Similarly, when Jairus’ daughter dies, he admonishes the relatives who were mourning and wailing that the girl was not dead but only sleeping. He raises her to life and gives her back to her parents.

One day, the Lord will give us back our loved ones too, all in the heavenly corridors of heaven, in that fragrant place where the living waters flow on all sides of the Temple. What is greater than Heaven? Nothing on this earth is greater than the Final altar of heaven where we can find true rest.
Just as Jesus consoled the women of Jerusalem who were weeping at the sight of His passion, in spite of being in greater pain himself at the weight of the heavy cross on His shoulders, we too can find consolation in our sadness in the words of a very moving hymn; “ When I am down and Oh, my soul so weary, When troubles come and my heart burdened be, You raise me up so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas. I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.”

Yes, it is only on the Lord’s strong shoulders that we can find strength in our grief. Here, we can find courage to accept His will and fortitude to carry our own daily Cross. He comforts us when we lay our heavily burdened head on His shoulder and erases all our fears.

Jesus spoke at length about the Resurrection and life after death. We read in John 6:40 ; “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The Lord said that just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

St. Paul stressed about belief in the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: 12-14; “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
”God who raised our Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14)
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.(Romans 6:4)
Truly, the name of Jesus is greater than death itself for He having conquered death has won over the grave and opened the doors of an eternal paradise for us.

The ashes of memories are those ashes which can never get scattered in the wind. These ashes remain deeply grounded in our hearts until from them will arise a new life and an eternal memory on the day of the Lord.
Until that day, we will hold fast to the promise of everlasting life as we chant; “Forever, I’ll love you, Forever, I’ll stand. Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.” Yes, this is the promise of a love so great that can reach its culmination only in Heaven.

Maria Machado Franco

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