A man who just opened a new store was pleased when he received a big bouquet of flowers. But he was puzzled by the card, which said, “Deepest sympathy.”
Just then, the florist called to apologize for having sent the wrong card.
“Oh, that’s all right,” said the storekeeper. “I am a business man, and I understand how these things happen.”
“But I accidentally sent your card to a funeral party,” the florist said.
“What did it say?” he asked.
“Congratulations on your new location.”
I met Vicki about three years ago. She was not a Catholic at the time, but she had many Catholic friends. When the doctor informed her that she had a tumor in her head, she became worried and depressed. Her friends urged her to contact me and ask me to pray for her. She said that she was afraid of dying. After two visits with her, she told me that she would like to become a Catholic. I helped her to make her first confession and the profession of faith at her home on her wheelchair. She received the Holy Communion the first time in her life.
Vicki continued to struggle with her fear of dying; especially when the cancer began to spread to other parts of her body. She called to talk to me several times when her fear seemed to overwhelm her. Then one day last summer, she said that she saw Jesus appear to her when she was in the shower. Jesus was reaching out his hands toward her and telling her that he was going to help her. She did not understand what it meant. But I noticed that she no longer talked about her fear of dying afterward. Two weeks ago, she told me that she was no longer afraid of dying and she was ready to accept whatever God wanted for her. She received the last rite and died peacefully on August 1st at the age of 64. Vicki was a simple and sincere Christian woman and a devoted mother. She raised her three children as a single mother. She had learned to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and the Rosary before she became a Catholic. We celebrated her life and buried her last Thursday August 5th. I am sure she died as a faithful and prudent servant. Jesus is ready to welcome her into the Kingdom. It is always a blessing to celebrate a life that was sincere, faithful and ready to come before the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). We would not have fear of death if we listen and closely follow Jesus’ instructions.
I found this spiritual exercise from the Book “Sadhana, A Way To God” by the late Jesuit priest, Fr. Anthony de Mello helpful.
Imagine you see your body in its coffin laid out in a church for the funeral rites . . . Take a good look at your body, especially at the expression of your face . . .
Now look at all the people who have come to your funeral . . .
Go slowly from one pew to another looking at the faces of these people . . .
Stop before each person and see what he is thinking and what he is feeling . . .
Now listen to the sermon that is being preached. Who is the preacher? What is he saying about you?
Can you accept all the good things he is saying about you? If you cannot, notice what resistances there are in you to accepting what the preacher is saying . . .
Which of the good things he says about you are you willing to accept? How do you feel when you hear him speak?
Look again at the faces of your friends who have come to attend your funeral . . . Imagine all the good things they will be saying about you when they return home from your funeral . . .
What do you feel now?
Is there something you would like to say to each of them before they go home?
Some final farewell in response to all they are thinking and feeling about you, a response which, alas, they will never hear now? Say it, all the same, and see what this does to you . . .
Imagine that the funeral rites are over now. You stand in imagination above the grave in which your body lies, watching your friends leave the cemetery. What are your feelings now? As you stand here now, look back on your life and your experiences . . . Was it all worthwhile?
Now become aware of your existence here in the room and realize that you are still alive and still have some time at your disposal . . .
It is up to us to create the card at the end of life: With deepest sympathy or Congratulation to your new location! Faithful and prudent stewards will receive the “congratulation to your new location” card. Unfaithful and imprudent stewards surely will receive the “with deepest sympathy” card.
Faithful and prudent stewards pray with the Church today:
God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy.
Guide us to everlasting life by helping us to use wisely the blessings you have given to the world.