Sadness and joy sometimes go hand in hand in life. We experienced this when our oldest daughter got married. A few days before, my (Klaus’s) mother who was looking forward to the wedding, had died. At the wedding reception, guests from near and far were introduced. At the end of the introductions, the bride and groom referred to two large-format photos: one showed our son-in-law’s grandfather, who had died a few months earlier, and the other was of my mother. They both said “that grandpa and grandma would be joining the celebration from heaven.” As Christians, we invite you to stay in touch with our dearly departed.

Toward the end of each year, we face the fact that death is part of life. On November 1, Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day. A day later, All Souls’ Day. Many visit the graves of their deceased relatives. Protestant churches celebrate All Souls Sunday at the end of the month. The last Sunday of the Ecclesiastical Year is also called Eternity Sunday, because we look forward to the Lord’s return and eternal life.

Feeling at home in the world and in heaven

When we are faced with the death of family or friends, a sense of unease arises because it triggers thoughts of our own death. The awareness of mortality is what some American psychologists call the “worm in our heart.” As we age, it makes life increasingly miserable for us. Some people expect to die before their partner, because, on the one hand, they cannot bear the pain of the death of the one they love, and on the other hand, they find it difficult to live alone.

The Christians of the first centuries believed that in heaven, they would only see God. Eternal bliss would consist only in “contemplating God”. The deceased would stand before God and “behold and love him; they would love and praise him without end. This is what Augustine (*354, † 430 AD) taught. During his life, this Church Father further developed the doctrine of a reunion in heaven.

When Italica’s (a Roman noblewoman) husband died in 408 A.D., Augustine wrote her a letter. He comforted the widow with these words: “Our loved ones who have departed this life are not lost to us; we have only sent them onward. Thanks to God’s unwavering promise, we too can hope to enter one day into that life in which, the better we know them, the more we will love them, and in which we will love them without fear of being separated.”

We would like to invite you to develop this attitude toward life: to feel at home in the world and at home in heaven. The apostle Paul writes: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21.

“As Christians we have the duty to see to it that the earth becomes a piece of heaven,” according to Father Joseph Kentenich.

Difficult but necessary conversations in the family

We can share our thoughts on these topics.

For our life with God

We pray together: Holy Spirit, you do not abandon our soul, even when our earthly life comes to an end. Our communion with you remains. It is comforting to know that we remain in your love. Bless us and bless our beloved family and friends and grant our dearly departed eternal life with you. Amen.

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