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Facing Death With Faith
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Not ‘Good-bye’
Celebrating Life
For Teens: A Trip to the Cemetery
For Kids: Watch the Transformation




One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do as a parent was telling my kids that their Aunt Kelly had died. At the time they were only six and two and didn’t fully comprehend the concept of death, but they knew enough—especially Maddie, my six-year-old. She understood that Aunt Kelly wouldn’t be stopping by to visit anymore or that they wouldn’t be going shopping together.

“I won’t ever see her again, will I?” I remember her asking.

As I struggled to explain it the best way Maddie’s little mind could understand, the only thing I could think to say was, “Yes, honey, you will see her again one day.” At that moment I was extremely grateful that I could lean on my faith and the hope of the Resurrection for assistance. It was comforting that I could tell her—and believe it myself—that one day she would see her Aunt Kelly again.

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Not ‘Good-bye’

This month, as we celebrate Holy Week and Easter, we once again take the journey with Jesus from death to new life through the crucifixion and resurrection. It is those precise events that provide me with that comfort of eternal life.

I was reminded of this again recently when my sister’s nephew was killed in a car accident. As her family struggled through the days immediately following the crash and the funeral, her eight-year-old son, Russell, asked them, “Why are you sad? Bryan will always be with us in our hearts.” Talk about an Easter moment!

The opening sentence of the General Introduction of the Order of Christian Funerals sums it up, saying, “In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity.”

Honestly, I find the hope of the Resurrection to be one of the most comforting aspects of my faith. I need to believe that some day I will once again be joined with loved ones who have gone before me in death, that death is not “good-bye,” but rather, “Until we meet again.”

Celebrating Life

As we celebrate Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in the Easter season, here are tips for remembering those moments in our own lives:

Celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Take part in your parish’s Holy Week and Easter services. Try to reflect on them in terms of your own life experience.

Keep the memories alive. Even though someone may no longer physically be with us, his/her memory certainly lives on. Take time to tell stories about that person, display pictures or let others know what he or she meant to you. For instance, both of my grandparents passed away before any of my kids were born, but they are very aware of what my grandparents looked like (because of pictures around our home) and what they were like (thanks to the many stories I have shared with them).

Tap into the power of the communion of saints. During the Easter season, pray to and for a loved one who has died.

Don’t rush to the resurrection part. Let’s be honest: Dealing with the death of a loved one is going to be tough, even if we believe in the Resurrection. Give yourself time to grieve. A counselor once told me that it can take a year or longer for the loss to sink in fully.

Be there for Ordinary Time. After the funeral and the following few months, people often tend to fall back into the day-to-day routines of their lives, and may forget those still affected by the loss of a loved one. Make an effort to be present for those everyday struggles. Send a note, pick up the phone and call to plan a lunch date or just to see how he or she is doing. Remember that the deceased person’s birthday or other important anniversaries of his or her life remain important to family members.

 

For Teens: A Trip to the Cemetery

For far too long, cemeteries have gotten a bad rap as being scary or creepy. But remembering that they are full of people who were loved in life helps to dispel that perception.

Take a visit to the cemetery where you know that family members are buried and find their graves. If you’re not sure where the graves are located, check with the cemetery office. They will be able to give you the exact location of your loved ones. Bring some flowers to place on the grave or just make sure the plot is clean and the headstone is visible.

For Kids: Watch the Transformation

Nothing signifies the changes of spring better than a caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. Watching the process is quite a sight to behold. But it does take a bit of patience. You can buy a kit complete with caterpillars and watch them wrap themselves in a cocoon and transform right before your very eyes. You can buy kits either online—just search the Internet for butterfly kits—or possibly at a local garden store. You might want to call first and check if the store has them. When the butterflies emerge, you can release them in your garden.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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