All Souls-Without Exception
by Lori Heine
When I think of where my parents are now, and about what they might be doing, I’m comforted by my faith in three things. The first is that they still exist—somewhere. Hopefully in Heaven. Secondly, that they not only remember me, but probably pray for me continually. And third, that they know things now that they didn’t know when they were living in this world.
Some of the things that they may know now could result from a clearer and more complete understanding of the people and events from their earthly lifetime. I like to think that they understand me in a way they never did before, and that they have forgiven me for the things they might have held against me in our years together. Dad learned, late in life, that I am gay, and accepted it with a grace that still surprises me. When I came out, Mom was already deep in Alzheimer’s dementia and incapable of grasping the revelation, but she’s had plenty of time to get used to it from a vantage point beyond this vale of tears. Given the sight available to those in a more perfect world, I believe that she’s okay with it—and that, come to think of it, she probably actually knew it all along.
On the Day of the Dead, those of Hispanic heritage celebrate their departed loved ones. This seemed macabre to me when I was younger, but I’ve come to realize that it’s really a very healthy custom. It helps us to get used to the naturalness of death, and to the fact that it’s merely the passage from one stage of being to another—as surely as birth transitions us from the womb into the mortal world. It also invites us to digest what we Christians believe is a fact: that those we’ve lost are never truly gone.
All Souls’ Day is a more general Christian observance of the power of love to endure beyond the grave. We may not be quite ready to accept the idea that every one of our departed loved ones is a saint—hence the reason that we have one day for All Saints and another for the rest of the crowd. But we are democratic enough to make sure that we don’t forget anyone. Even those we may not be so sure ever made it to eternal bliss.
Once they’ve gone the way of all flesh, we don’t find it too hard to be charitable about where they might have ended up. Even for those who were scoundrels or total reprobates in this life, we hope for the best. I have to wonder why it’s so difficult for many in this world to extend the same benefit of a doubt to others who are still in the land of the living. It seems to me that it’s awfully easy for those sure of their own righteousness to condemn to everlasting ruin those of whom they disapprove.
Perhaps the day after All Souls’ should be a Day of literally All Souls—in every realm of existence, and without exception. Behind the concept of honoring the dead, both saints and sinners, is a sense of the unfathomable mercy and providence of God. We really don’t know who gets saved and who doesn’t, and when we do find out, we can’t come back and tell the people we have left behind. It wouldn’t hurt us if we mustered enough humility to stop playing judge and jury to those still living in our midst.
Humility used to be considered a cardinal Christian virtue. There are a lot of people claiming the name of Christian who don’t appear to believe that anymore. They presume to know that some of us are simply beyond saving. In other words, they presume to know what only God knows. That used to be considered blasphemy, but I suppose they don’t believe that anymore, either.
I remain confident that God knows everything that we don’t. That His wisdom spans all worlds, and that no soul is beyond saving. And that He condemns none of us for being who He created us to be, or for loving who He surely—in His infinite wisdom—intended us to love.
May everyone who reads this have a happy All Saints Day, and a very blessed Day of All Souls—without Exception.
© 2017 Lori Heine
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