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A legacy issue

This year’s Gospel passage for the annual Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is emotive. Luke relates that a mother in the town of Nain weeps and mourns the death of her only son. She is a widow.

The dead man is being carried outside the town walls for burial. At the same time, Jesus Christ and His followers are entering the town and observe the procession.

Scripture says, “he felt sorry for her” and putting His hand on the funeral bier He instructs the dead man “to get up”. The young man rises from the dead and begins speaking. Jesus gives him back to his mother and everyone was filled with awe and praised God.

There are many mothers, women, families that today in Trinidad and Tobago can identify with that widow in Nain. They mourn the loss of their sons. The only difference, there is no saviour to instruct him to rise again.

Once again the murder toll in our small country is approaching the 500 mark. Our society remains traumatised by the daily occurrence of such violent death, be it by murder, car accidents or otherwise.

And for the past two years, during the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health officials gave daily updates on those who died from the virus. That too has had a silent, traumatic effect on the mental health of our nation, experiencing the death of more than 4,000 citizens – fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons. The repercussions of those deaths are being felt in a society still recovering from the more obvious effects of Covid-19.

Where there is life, there will naturally be death. There cannot be one without the other as they must co-exist. Much research has gone not only into prolonging the gift of life, but into truly understanding death. Still, it remains a mystery.

All societies and cultures throughout the ages recognise death. An oddity among human cultures is the Satiaa tribe of Banjaras in Rajasthan which mourns the birth of a child and celebrates when someone dies in the family. This custom is vastly opposite cultural norms which celebrates birth and mourns when someone passes.

For us Catholics, All Souls’ Day and throughout the month of November, the Church makes a special effort to remember, honour and pray for the dead. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1007), “Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfilment.”

But the celebration of All Souls’ Day has waned over the years. Not many people, for valid reasons, visit cemeteries nowadays to spruce up the graves of their departed loved ones. The Church must find ways to reinvigorate this important tradition.

While life is for the living, the dead have left a legacy that must continue to live on for the generations to come.

Christ transformed death for this very reason, and instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist so that we might live and not die.

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash