Today we buried my stepdad. He did not die a few days ago. Actually, he died two days before Thanksgiving, six months ago. But, in the cold north where we live, the Catholic cemetery will not dig graves between November 15 and April 15. The reason is, there could be snow squalls during that time, or else the ground could be just too frozen to dig. Either way, we had to wait.
My mom did not look forward to opening up all the unhealed emotional wounds which would necessarily accompany the delayed burial. But we had to do it eventually. We had heard of people who hold on to their loved one’s remains for years, not wanting to see that final action. I applaud her for taking this big step.
In the days before the burial, Mother and I discussed mourning. How can one continue to mourn so long? When does it go away? Well, it doesn’t.
There is a permanent rift in your life when the center of your existence moves on to his reward. For a while we tend to forget that the husband or wife is not supposed to be the center of life. God is supposed to be there. But God does not sit across the breakfast table from you. God does not kiss you goodnight. The day to day lifestyle which a couple has shared for half a lifetime, or more, changes.
When people are left widowed, the fear of being alone is high. I am not saying that widows are, or should be, looking for another mate. That is often not the case when the widow is over seventy. This is when it is time to turn towards the One Who has been there all along. He is our Father and we are as close to Him as a prayer, in much the same way as we are close to our earthly father with a letter. I pointed out to my mother that my stepdad, John, is not gone forever. He is gone for a time until she journeys to him. This is something mourners do not realize. They only see their loss. She is no different.
We long ago assumed he would go to Heaven. He was the epitome of the gentleman, always conscious of his role in my mother’s life. He was the consummate sportsman, having spent his years in the military playing basketball and baseball as a member of the Special Forces. And he was not only a practicing Catholic, he was a CCD teacher and an acolyte, who could always be depended on to attend a funeral and help out. And he adored his family. He was the only dad I really remember and was special to me. I live in the hope of seeing him again in God’s Kingdom.
But, no matter what I have said, my mother has continued her mourning. Listening to Glenn Beck, I had a thought. He always asks people running for office the question “How is your soul?” And he expects an answer in all honesty, although, as a Mormon, he probably has a little different perception of the best answer. I turned the question to my mom today. “How is your soul?” She just blinked and looked at me. “Are you ready to go to Heaven? Or are you going to spend time away from Dad and sit in Purgatory for a while?” She hadn’t thought of it that way. We talked about changing and trusting in God’s plan. She asked, “Is it too late for me?”
Maybe I am getting through to her?
RIP, my dear John.