autunno della vita

When I was a child, our family prayed for and I spontaneously associated “a happy death” with dying cradled in the loving arms of family and church, fully at peace with God and everyone around you.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Not many persons, even very good persons, get to die like that. Given the randomness and contingencies of human circumstances, very often people die in broken and compromised situations: bitter, unforgiving and unforgiven, not having dealt with their own sins, unreconciled with their own families and the church, alienated, indifferent to God and community, angry, drunk, dead by drug overdose, by suicide.

Many of us, I am sure, have had persons close to us die with whom we had unfinished business. Perhaps we hurt them, or they hurt us and it was never reconciled, or we should have given them more of ourselves but were too preoccupied with our own lives to reach out at the time, or we hated them and should have made some gestures of reconciliation and we didn’t and now it’s too late! Death has separated them from us and what was left unfinished now lies, irrevocably, unfinished and we live with guilt and keep saying: “If only, if only…”

These “if only-s” will disappear if we take seriously the Christian doctrine concerning the communion of saints.

To believe in the communion of saints is to believe that those who have died are still linked to us in such a way that we can continue to communicate, to talk, with them. It is to believe that our relationship with them can continue to grow and that the reconciliation which, for many human reasons, was not possible in this life can now take place.

How often in a family, in a friendship, in a community, in any human network, is there tension, misunderstanding, anger, frustration, irreconcilable difference, selfishness that divides, hurt which can no longer be undone, and then… someone dies! The death brings with it a peace, a clarity, and a charity which, prior to it, were not possible.

In the communion of saints, we have privileged communication with those with whom we still have unfinished business. Fortunately, there is time after death to finish off some things for those whose lives end in situations full of bitterness, anger, irresponsibility, sin, and lack of warmth and love.

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