By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 15, 2016
“Your blood work looks great,” the doctor said. “You could live to be 100!”
“Actually, that’s the last thing I’m interested in,” I sighed.
I’ll admit it—I am ready to go any time the Lord calls, largely because I’m pining for my husband so much. With each passing day I miss his fuzzy beard, his smile, his laughter—more than I ever imagined was possible.
One question I keep pondering is whether we’ll recognize our loved ones in heaven. After all, it isn’t much comfort to picture the afterlife as peopled with gauzy, amorphous beings who lack personalities and earthly memories.
I found an answer in an excellent book “What the Saints Said About Heaven,” which points to the Gospel story about a starving beggar, Lazarus, who was ignored by a wealthy man. After death, Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich fellow to hell—but the twosome do recognize each other.
Bereaved people may also find comfort, the book suggests, in the many saints who mention a reunion between family and friends in the afterlife. St. Francis de Sales, for example, praised deep and true friendship “which is to endure forever” in heaven.
Decades later, St. Padre Pio seconded that thought with the remark, “What kind of heaven would it be if we didn’t have with us those whom we love?”
To me, the scene where the resurrected Jesus cooks fish for his friends suggests we keep our personalities after death. After all, Jesus was known for feeding the crowds with loaves and fishes, and sanctifying bread and wine at the Last Supper.
When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he immediately instructed her parents to get her food. Bearing this in mind, it seems especially fitting that the Risen Christ is eager to care for his friends by cooking for them.
In another insightful book “In Heaven We’ll Meet Again,” Father Francois Rene Blot, a French Jesuit, says the primary ecstasy of heaven comes from enjoying God—but there’s also delight in savoring other people.
Father Blot mentions St. John Chrysostom’s poignant advice to a widow who was deeply longing to see her husband again.
“If you desire to see your husband … let your life shine with purity like his, and be assured that you will thus enter into the same angelic choir that he has already reached.”
St. John Chrysostom assured the widow she would live with her husband “not only during five years, as on earth—not only during twenty, a hundred, a thousand … but during ages without end.”
Ages without end sounds extremely tempting to me. Time on earth, though, seems to drag, so I remind myself that to God a thousand years are like one day, and one day is a thousand years.
Thus, even if the prospect of potentially living a few more decades on earth can be discouraging, I trust that I will be reunited with my beloved soon enough. This, of course, assumes I follow St. John Chrysostom’s advice about staying on the shining path of Christ.
Meanwhile, I will continue praying for my sweetheart, in case he is still being purified on the way to his final destination, and also ask for his prayers.
And if people do indeed keep their personalities after death, I hope one day to discover my husband in heaven cooking a gourmet meal or teaching little kids how to draw.
But since he was a highly imaginative fellow who often dreamed he was flying, it’s also possible I will encounter him seated upon some fantastical winged beast.
And I will definitely accept his invitation to hop on board and soar away with him.
Artwork (“Fledge,” oil painting) by Jef Murray. You may contact Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.