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Friday, July 08, 2011

Party Like It's 1999

Scene: Minivan traveling I-35 northbound near Cameron, MO. 11 PM, 12 years ago today. Interior. William (age 5), and his parents are awake, his two siblings are asleep. Through the windshield, a very large thunderstorm is visible in the distance.
Will: There sure is a big party going on in heaven tonight. 
Will's Dad (driving, distracted): What? ... What did you say?
Will: Heaven's having a party. You know, Grandpa Gary said that when there's a thunderstorm, it means the angels are having a party. 
Will's Mom (begins to sob) 
Will's Dad (tears welling, tries to keep van on the road): Yep. Your're right. A big party.
We waited until the next morning to tell him that his Grandpa Gary, my father, had passed away that night (a couple hours before the "party").

My father dancing with my sister at her wedding in 1996.
I don't claim to know the details as to how the whole purgatory/get-in-to-heaven thing works, so I don't know whether the party would have been in heaven proper, or in paradise. But I'm going to choose to believe there was a party.

Today it is very common to hear people talk about how some dear one has "gone to heaven," or "gone to meet Jesus." Like a child told a story about a thunderstorm, we want to believe there is a happy occasion beyond the unsettling reality we face. The idea that everyone gets to heaven is a childish one. But, after all, we are encouraged to have the faith of child, as well.

In that unsettling moment, through Love, we are open to Faith with Hope for heaven. Yes, it's childish. Yes, at its base, it's probably a response out of fear. But I'm willing to let it slide. The trick, of course, is to not confuse a child-like faith with child-like reason. The gospel points out, repeatedly, that not everyone gets into heaven. And in case we missed it there, Our Lady, has reminded us of it many times through the ages since Jesus Christ told us so. Yes, there is still a time to put away childish things.

So we celebrate his life and have a party. And think of him as the guest of honor at a bigger party. And then we also pray for the dead. And, ourselves, prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight His paths.

May you have eternal rest, Dad. May the Perpetual Light shine upon you. May you reside in the New Jerusalem. All through the Grace of God's mercy. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

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