This coming Sunday (01 November 2015) is All Saints’ Day and on this day the Church has a big celebration because it is the feast of all the Saints. We remember to pray for all the proclaimed saints and the unproclaimed saints by the Church. We pray, too, for the living saints here on earth who continue facing their spiritual battles on their journey to achieving holiness in life.
The very next day, 02 November, is All Souls’ Day. That is a day for all the souls in purgatory, especially our dear loved ones who have passed away.
One experience that caused me to let go, trust and to do whatever was God’s will, was when I witnessed and accompanied a dying person who was very dear to me. This person taught me many things in life: how to love, serve, pray, sacrifice, and, most importantly, all about God. She was my mother and she was sick with Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood.
It was a painful experience for us, her children. To lose a mother is to lose a person who has a very important role and is a fundamental part of our lives. Upon knowing she had this kind of sickness, I tried to bargain with God to not take her life so very soon because I was not ready and I would miss her so much. I hoped that she would be able to enjoy her old age.
During this time, I had just finished my charismatic year in Italy and I was preparing for my perpetual profession that had been scheduled for 6 December 2004. Days before the celebration, I went home for the preparation of the Mass and for our little gathering. Everything was ready. My brother and sister, who worked in far away places, came for that occasion. They showed their moral, spiritual and financial support for my chosen vocation. I had mixed feelings waiting for that big day, when I would announce my forever “yes” or perpetual vows, to God, without looking back. I felt very sad, too, because my mother was very, very sick. She was dying, and the doctor had told us that at any time she would be gone.
My last attempt to bargain with the Lord was for Him to not let my mother die on the day of my perpetual vows. Yes, I was really afraid and preoccupied with thinking of my mother’s health situation.
The day of my perpetual profession came, many attended and witnessed the event. My family was complete: FDZ sisters were represented from the various communities, our Rogationist Fathers, who officiated at the Mass, the RCJ seminarians in the choir, my former teachers, some friends and neighbours from the place where I came from, and relatives of my mother and father from the different islands. They were all there and witnessed the event.
On that day I forgot about being sad. It was a good, beautiful and successful event which became a moment of letting go and letting God be the One who guides my life as a fully pledged member of this spiritual family, the Daughters of Divine Zeal. After the celebration I stayed one night in the community and on the morning of 07 December, I went home to stay for a while with my family.
When I arrived home, my family had called the ambulance so that my mother could be brought to the hospital. She was unconscious. In the hospital my sister and I stayed beside her and never left her alone. When she woke up, she told me, “I thought I died already. I’ve been travelling a long, long and very wide road where the sun shines so brightly.” Seeing that she was very weak, I felt that she was going very soon. I became a little bit panicked – I did not know what to do. All that I was conscious of was to prepare for the death of my mother.
It was six o’clock in the evening and it was a habit of our family to pray the Rosary together at that time. So, I asked my mother to follow me in praying the Rosary. She nodded to me as a sign of agreement. I placed my face nearer to her ears so that she could hear and follow me.
She gradually became weaker and weaker. She closed her eyes. This was the time I had to let her go. I surrendered everything to God. Tears in my eyes started to roll down… we did not finish praying the Rosary. I had stopped so that I could have a moment to thank her for all the love, care and sacrifices she had made to send us to school and to raise us.
I asked my mother for forgiveness for whatever wrongdoing I had done since I was young, to forgive us, her children, and remind her to forgive others who had done wrong. I then told her to always follow the light, to always keep saying the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in her heart. These were my last words to my mother.
My mother began bleeding and because she could hardly breathe, I lifted her up in my arms. Upon holding her, I recalled that when I was young she had held me in her arms too. Now, with her in my arms, it reminded me of the Pietà – when Mary had cradled the dead body of Jesus in her arms.
The last words of my mother were: “Lord have mercy on me… Lord please forgive me…” then the nurse gave her some oxygen. She slipped into a coma.
On 08 December 2004, at 6 o’clock in the morning, my mother died. It was very significant because it was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and my mother had especially loved Mary. She had a devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, after whom she was named, bearing the name of Socorro which means succour (‘help’ or ‘relief’). For me, the blessed Virgin Mary had fetched my mother on her feast day, at the holy hour of the Angelus. Furthermore, 08 December was supposed to have been the date of my perpetual profession but it was good that it had been moved to two days prior to that date, because the day of my perpetual profession was also the 66th Birthday of my mother.
Upon reflection today, I am thankful that my mother died after the day of my perpetual profession. At the time I thought we were losing her completely but now, within my heart, I remember her and the many good things she did in life, and in giving us inspiration.
For me, it was a peaceful and happy death. I thought, at the time, that God was so far away from me, but now I remember that in every challenge in life, God is really so near – He never leaves us. With that experience, without realizing that He is near because I pray to Him, I am always thinking and asking help from Him. Being in communion with Him in prayer gives strength and consolation. God is not lost to us. He is the One who always finds us, especially when we are down and feel sad.
For those who have parents or other loved ones that are still alive, please treasure and enjoy every moment in their presence because the Lord can call them into eternal life at any time. Show your love, affection and appreciation, ask for forgiveness and be reconciled with them. Usually we are so diligent in giving well arranged flowers in and on our loved one’s coffin, saying beautiful words of appreciation especially in a eulogy. Yet when they are still alive, we never show this level of care to them so that they can see those beautiful things and appreciate how much you love them. Now is the time, while they are still alive, to let them know and feel how much you care and love them.
From the moment my mother was gone I have always prayed for all the souls in purgatory. I have this devotion to pray for them every night before going to bed and every time I remember my mother. During this coming month of November, it is good to commit our prayers for their eternal repose. We pray for all the souls in purgatory and especially for those forgotten souls. Let us pray:
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them may they rest in peace. Amen.
For all the souls in purgatory, pray for us!
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