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Memento Mori and the Faithful Departed


October was a doozy of a month, and the last three days…there are just no words. 

But these words and this prayer said after every grace now mean more than ever.

“May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Praying for the souls in Purgatory is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. These souls long for God but they need to be purified of their sins before they can enter heaven.

Not only does the month of October force me to recognize/remember we are at the half-a-year mark since Jon was called home to heaven, October also causes me to pause and recall many tough parts and dates in our story that got him there. 

There are so many things to reconcile, so many things to process, so much trauma that needs to be released, so much suffering.

Good thing I know the people and places to go to hold my hand through it and guide my steps.

These last three days remind us of the inevitability of death. The Triduum of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls calls us to reflect, remember, and contemplate Holy Souls and Saints and, of course, this resurrection life. These days are not for the faint of heart but bring consolation to those suffering loss.

I go to God for all things.

“The Lord is my light, the Lord is my help, the Lord is my salvation.”

Psalm 27

I stay in regular conversation with God about many things—prayer life. That is how healthy relationships are built. He is the best, most patient listener. One that sits with you where you are, not trying to advise but holding your hand and letting you talk.

He is gentle and loving and kind in His approach, revealing to me ever so slowly where He wants me to hold on and where He keeps reminding me it is okay to let go.

The last three days, with Halloween/All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’, and All Souls’ Day, the conversations and glaring messages of death are an “interesting” thing to navigate when your spouse has just died. It all lands different now.

While death has never been a scary word for Jon or me, these days definitely made the awareness of my reality more intense. We never shied from talking about death and dying long before brain cancer. Then, throughout the time Jon was facing a terminal diagnosis, we talked openly about the path to eternity.

It—death—was spoken of tenderly so Jon would reserve his positive energy to stay in the earthly battle of wills. 

For over two years before we knew we were getting closer to the end days, we had honest conversations about dying and the “tender days,” knowing full well an incurable, aggressive disease may eventually take Jon from us.

I’ll never forget a text Jon sent me in January 2021 after an MRI, “My only goal is to keep my eyes on God—to help strengthen our faith—and spend every last minute I can with you and the kids because I can only give you so much in a short amount of time.” He knew how he wanted to live as he died. He wanted to remember his death. But we don’t forget, Jon is still giving us so much.

When I spoke about impending “tender” things and end days when sharing with Jon about our next steps, out of love, I would remind him we were both/all on the same path to eternity.

Only God knows the number of our days.

We knew we should work to keep our hearts and souls pure, clean, and readythe purgative way.

Memento Mori

May we remember our death.

As I sat in mass on All Saints Day, in a quiet church, I remembered those I love and gone before us and walked the path of holiness to give us examples of how to become better holy witnesses even when we lived life as sinners. We are all sinners. All Saints were sinners at one time except for our Queen of Saints, The Blessed Mother; she had the gift and grace of being free of the stain of sin.

I talk about saints often because I love how they each have unique stories handed down through the church, and in being canonized to share their story and show their love and devotion to God and give Him all the Glory.

Not all Saints in Heaven are indeed named, and I believe I was married to one. Like our priest celebrant said during the homily, “There are the Holy Heroes and the Unsung Ones. The seen and unseen ones.” 

I have no doubt Jon is a saint, but like some of the greatest saints, he was not perfect and needed to confess, too.

I will forever be grateful for the day I began to understand the grace that comes from the Sacrament of Confession. It helps us to cleanse and purify our souls. I remember seeing it more clearly as Jon was heading to confession after he had the stroke—I will never forget the image of walking him to the priest and watching from afar as he found the words—The holy image of a man with an affliction wanting to be made clean for whatever was to come. 

Jon may never be canonized, but it brings me comfort knowing he is in heaven. If I bother him enough and tell him to intercede for us, I am sure he’d be running directly to the throne room to bring our petitions to the Lord.

My goal is to get to heaven. It was the goal of our marriage to walk the other in our union to the pearly gates. I am grateful that was part of my story. I just wish it wasn’t so soon.

I pray that this becomes your goal, too—to make a daily choice to work toward heaven.

If you have a spouse, may you aspire to walk alongside them as they become more like the divine. Approaching Christmases these past few years, “prepare him room,” took on a more profound meaning in my heart. It is the reason for the season. May we prepare room in our hearts every day,

It’s All Souls Day, as I write this, a day we commemorate the Souls in Purgatory. There is a whole bunch of theology I won’t get into on this. The state of one’s soul is left for God to judge. 

But it is said those who accept their sufferings out of love for God can be given the grace to reduce their time in Purgatory and offered for those still suffering there.

We experienced a lot of suffering and agony while walking alongside Jon to live with and die from brain cancer and then journey toward heaven. I would like to think that helped his cause toward sainthood.

My beloved Jon never complained and knew his story brought others to prayer. He was constantly touched by this mission. He died a most peaceful and holy death.

Typing these words brings me to tears, not just for our loss, but for a beautiful answered prayer so my kids and I can have a memory of passing through this life that is not ugly or scary. We have seen ugly, but this was sacred, peaceful, and offered hope for heaven, even in the agony of losing their dad and my husband far too soon.

Sorry if I reduced this theology too much; you can search for more suitable theologians and apologists to explain this purgatory stuff.

But since it was All Souls’ Day, as I write this, I am praying and offering my heartache for other widows who are experiencing similar pain and for the souls in Purgatory who need our prayers.

As I sat in the special evening Mass of Remembrance for the souls who died this year, candles were lit for each person named, including my young husband, my dear friend’s son, a precious older church friend and spiritual mother and her husband, the mother of another friend and so many others dearly loved and missed. May we remember them and all the faithful departed.

I always talk about how God is in the details, and when we are in conversation and allow him to lead our lives, we can see his hand more clearly. I find it fascinating that while taking a Scripture course in the Spring Semester of 2020, I was assigned a book of the Bible to complete a few projects. I was so excited to be given a book like Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, or even one of the Gospels.

Nope, I did not get any of those.

I was assigned Maccabees 1 and 2 and was quite annoyed because it was not a book I was that familiar with. But it is the Word where I learned about Purgatory, praying to the dead and a glimpse into understanding the saints better and offering up our suffering for those in need of our prayers. God wastes nothing.

“If he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.”

2 Macs 12:44-45

God knows what He is doing even if we can’t always see, even if we don’t want to study Books of the Bible we are assigned in class and makes no sense. They all make sense, just not always to us at the time. I used to say, because of the paper I wrote, May we be Maccabees. The Maccabees knew their strength as warriors did not come from their own accord, but that’s just another thread in this tapestry.

Sin and death were never part of the plan. We have a fall in a garden to blame for that.

But we should remember our death not out of fear of dying but out of the joy of living for heaven. A joy that comes even in suffering as a caregiver, or while a disease takes our earthly bodies, or we are left to walk this journey grieving and suffering a monumental loss.

But there is more…this is the resurrection life.

While we remember our death, Memento Mori, or the proper translation: “remember we all will die,” may we remember that when we die from this earthly life, it is not the end. 

Heaven’s Glory, the beatific vision, is the beginning and is where we will reunite with the Communion of Saints in Heaven and those we love who have gone before us.

While this month and the last few days were more challenging for this human heart, this lady who has one foot and half of her heart in heaven also knows the path to eternity is the plan. 

Those Holy Souls, the saints in heaven, are winning.

They are the ones who beat the disease or whatever affliction that took them to pass through this life suddenly.

While living life without Jon by my side is excruciatingly painful, I ponder if, in time, the pain will dull—maybe it will be like the old ankle injury that never lets me forget that brokenness. I will always take my steps more tenderly. 

I know for sure I’ll never heal completely from this loss, not until I enter heaven.

I also know there is so much life to live and joy to be found. I want to always remember my death and love well and live my life for heaven.

“This is the will of my Father, says the Lord that everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life.”

John 6:37-40

If you want to learn more about Why we say “Memento Mori” this is a great explanation.

This post is written in memory of the brain cancer warrior friends who have been take from this earthly life to soon and for their widows who are left to navigate grief and loss without their other half by their side.

Please remember my friend Merry and her daughter, Nadia, and their family as their beloved Husband and Father, Nathan was born into eternal life on All Souls’ Day yesterday. Well Done Good and Faithful Servant. You are loved.

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  1. Not to be insensitive, but I don’t think we can possibly know if our beloved dead are in heaven or still in purgatory. I’d continue to pray for the repose of his soul.

    1. Dear Andie —

      Your concern for my husband’s soul is thoughtful.

      Of course I will never stop praying to my husband or for my husband’s soul or any of my loved ones like my mom and dad who have gone before me.

      Because of the suffering my husband and family endured here while he was very sick was beyond comprehension, I’d like to think we have a merciful God where suffering and purgatory are concerned.

      St Therese has beautiful thoughts on that too.

      “St Therese taught them they could go straight to Heaven when they died.
      Simple. By trusting God for everything.”

      But for me in this valley of the shadow of death, it is more than theology. It’s about Jesus who is love and mercy.

      It brings my children (who are extremely rooted in faith) and me great consolation and deep healing from our loss and trauma to believe and know my husband/their father is there in Heaven. By believing that we are choosing to live in hope for the resurrection and eternal life.

      In my reflection I mentioned I won’t debate theology of purgatory, I know it and understand it. This was a reflection written for matters of the heart in our deep suffering.
      We suffered a lot of things—things that are far too sacred to share in light of the loss we are grieving and my children grieve everyday without their father here on earth.

      I do wish you well and
      I offered my Divine Mercy Chaplet today for you and those you loved and lost too.

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