This day – 8th July – is the single day of the year which I really don’t like. It’s the anniversary of the day my mother died.
Her death was completely unexpected and even now, some 26 yers later, I replay the events of that day over and over in my head. Having left home at lunchtime, I spent the rest of the day working in the hospital, returning home in the late evening. And that’s when I found her dying, which she did shortly afterwards. Each year, as the evening on this day draws closer, I count down those hours, watching the clock until that time arrives. Every year.
No death is good for those close to the person – whether it follows a long illness or comes without warning, still it is very difficult in most circumstances and leaves so many emotions, such grief, afterwards. For so long afterwards. It’s like an ocean whose cold waves never fail to wash across the shore, taking away a little more of the sand each time. Perhaps this is especially so with the death of one’s mother – certainly, that is how it feels.
However, good often comes from the strangest places – and in this case, the events of that evening left me with an intense devotion to the dying. I pray for them every morning, where they are mentioned explicitly in my morning offering, especially those who will die this day; and again in the evening, where they are mentioned at the start of every Rosary – they have become a ‘standing intention’ as the years have passed. Those approaching death, regardless of whether it is ‘expected’ or not, have a great need of our prayers. (And on a side note – the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is the perfect devotion for those devoted to the dying and the dead.)
It is the same for those who have already died. As Catholics, we know better than to assume anyone is in Heaven – other than the canonised Saints – and so we know, too, that the souls of the dead are always in need of our prayers. And if not for those in our own families and amongst our friends and those we have known in life, then certainly for all those souls who have no-one to pray for them. So very many of these souls rely on the prayerful kindness of people who never knew them in life and who have no connection to them other than a bond of chairty. But what a bond that is.
And this is the point of writing all this – have you lost someone close to you? Pray for them. And keep on praying for them. And pray for all those souls without a family member or friend to remember them in prayer.
At the end of this life, we will be judged only on how we have loved – and to pray for the dead is a great expression of that charitable love.