The Reality of Death

And I can say with confidence that…

We’re all going to die.

My grandparents’ graves
It is inevitable.

When I was younger, I attended the funerals of distant (both in blood and literally) family members, and it never really mattered to me. Like, I had no attachment to them. Sure, it was sad, but being young and not really fully appreciating what it means to grieve and mourn, it never hit me. I knew those distant family members were gone, I understood why my parents were sad, but I didn’t really, truly care. It wasn’t until I was an underclassman in high school that the reality of death became real to me with the death of my grandparents on my dad’s side.

I actually got to know my grandparents. Even though they lived in California and I in Texas, my parents made sure that we got to visit them and that they got to visit us frequently while I was growing up. When all my dad’s siblings immigrated here from the Philippines, we held annual family reunions! So, losing them at the beginning of high school was pretty hard.

With their deaths, I began to ask myself, in sadness…”How can I cope with the loss?”, “Are they in heaven?” and other usual questions.

I lost my grandfather at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. Things were going downhill for him that summer. I forget what caused him to decline, but I think it had something to do with cysts that developed internally that compromised his health. I remember visiting him in the hospital and a month later having to attend his funeral. His was the first funeral I’ve ever been to for a close family member.

My grandmother passed away almost exactly a year later. Her memory was declining at the time of my grandfather’s death, and I remember my aunt telling me that she could hear my grandfather calling out to her from beyond the grave. Creepily romantic, yeah? Late in the summer that year, she fell down and hit her head. She survived it for a while, but eventually she passed away.

When she passed away, yes, I was indeed really sad about it. But having gone through the process of grieving and mourning for my grandfather the year prior, I was more prepared this time around. But even more so, in that time between my grandfather’s and grandmother’s passing, I grew in my Catholic faith.

I started attending religious education classes at the start of high school as part of my learning and education in preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation. My grandfather passed away at the beginning of my freshman year, and I didn’t really know how to cope. Thankfully, through those classes, I began to pay more attention to and learn more about the faith that my family has passed on to me. While I may not have understood the Catholic understanding of suffering and death at the time (maybe I still don’t, or not that well), I knew that in dealing with my losses that the Catholic faith was something I could turn to. And yes, with both of their passings, I’m pretty sure I leveled up in my praying.

How can I cope? I don’t know, but perhaps asking God to give my grandparents a nice little plot of heaven would be great. At least I know they’ll be taken care of.

How can I deal with this sense of loss? I don’t know, but maybe by asking God for a sense of peace and calm for my own sake would help me move on.

I’m pretty sure that in going through the process of the deaths of my grandparents helped solidify, in a real way, for me about being Catholic. I first realized I had to have humility. My grandparents don’t belong to me nor to my dad and his many siblings. They belong to God. I had to acknowledge that there really is a God and that whenever we pass away, we hopefully return to His loving embrace in heaven. I also had to realize that the Church has given me ways to pray. When my grandmother was in the hospital, I took up a devotion to the Rosary because I didn’t know how else to pray for her. Or myself. Or my family.

With praying and beginning to dive deeper into my Catholic faith, I could begin to make sense of death and how to deal with it.

So, with the passing of my grandparents, it became so, so, so real to me that…

Death is a reality. 

But there was this jerk who lived 2000 years ago who Death could not hold (that’s why He’s a jerk…to Death). He rose from the dead in all glory and power like He said He would. He showed us that death is not the end, and He invites us to be with Him and the Father who sent Him. Because of Him, the gates of heaven burst open! And heaven is where we can enjoy a sense of eternal joy and peace!

O Death, where is thy sting?!

well maybe if Death had a stinger… o_O #joke

Knowing about Jesus, His Death, and His Resurrection…and His Church, I can arrive at a sense of peace when dealing with a loss.

And perhaps that’s the attraction of Catholicism–that it provides a way of peace and sense in dealing with the reality of death and the teachings of Jesus on the reality of what comes after death. Catholicism doesn’t have a cheap or cheesy understanding of the matter, but rather a beautifully rich and full sense of death and resurrection. And the “last things”: heaven and hell.

So yeah. Looking back since then, I think coping with death always helps me turn towards my Catholic faith because through it, at least I know there is meaning and purpose. My understanding of the Church’s mind on these matters is still a process of learning, understanding, and appreciating even as I deal with the deaths of others that are or are not close to me.

Please pray for my grandparents and for the repose of their souls! That they may enjoy the beatific vision of God in heaven!
– JD