Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A heavenly surprise party

My friend Cristina has had a rough year. Last March, her dad died after a lengthy illness. In January, her younger brother, Joe, died because of a brain tumour. A week later her mom went into the hospital, and I attended her mom's funeral this morning. It's just too much. It's impossible to understand.

But I loved being in the Italian church, surrounded by Italian families, hearing prayers in a language other than English, knowing the words were the same by the repetition of key phrases like nei secoli dei secoli, amen (forever and ever, amen). But as is often the case when I can't quite follow what is going on, my mind wandered, and I found myself imagining all of Mrs. S.'s loved ones gathering in one of heaven's antechambers, waiting there for her to come through the door.

"Surprise!" Mr. S., Joe, and numerous friends and relatives shout, people that she hasn't seen for ages, some that she has completely forgotten but now completely remembers. She walks around in a daze, being hugged by everyone in the room, many of whom are murmuring, "So good to see you, Cleonice!" "Cleonice, you look wonderful!" "Welcome to paradise!"

The biggest embrace and welcome of all comes from God, of course! Then the doors to the antechamber open, and everyone in the crowded room moves into the huge banquet hall that holds all of heaven. Mrs. S. is rubbing shoulders with all the saints.

I found myself smiling at the thought. Her suffering over, Mrs. S. is very happy, I'm sure, and looking forward to the day that she can welcome the rest of her family into the fullness of God's embrace, to when she can shout, "Surprise!"

My thoughts and prayers are with Cristina, Anna, Pina, and all of Mrs. S.'s loved ones. May their grief be a gentle reminder of their love.

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