By LORRAINE V. MURRAY | Published February 1, 2024
The day my husband died, the house quickly filled with neighbors and friends. Finally, it was just me and two close friends, and I picked up his rosary beads and said, “Let’s pray for him.” It was the beginning of a journey into a completely different life, where I would have to learn to walk by faith. It was the start of a stripping away of the outward layers of my being, which revealed my vulnerability, fear and grief. In the darkest hours, the beads became a sacred rope connecting me to heaven. They were cerulean blue, a color that bespeaks the dazzle of the heavens, and he carried them everywhere he went.
You can imagine how distraught I was, when the beads went missing from my suitcase after a trip last summer. I searched the suitcase numerous times, and then gave it another once-over, as I packed for my Christmas trip to Florida. Each time, I came up empty handed. When I arrived at my cousins’ house in Florida, I looked in the suitcase for a shirt—and there they were! I experienced that chills up-and-down-the-spine feeling that accompanies mysterious moments. This event didn’t seem to fit into the usual space-time continuum, because I was absolutely sure the beads hadn’t been in the suitcase before.
Faith bids us to believe in an unseen world, where angels dwell and prayers work miracles. St. Paul said: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” My first reaction was that God had given me the greatest gift imaginable. I went outside on the quiet patio, where little lizards watched me warily from beneath the shrubbery. I held the beads in my hands, while rays of light danced on the crystal. Reciting the joyful mysteries, I recalled the times Jef and I had prayed with the sisters in their little chapel, where one side of the room started the prayers, and the other side then chimed in.
As a boy, Jesus was missing for three days, and we can barely imagine the terror that seized his mother’s heart. Had he been injured? Was he lying somewhere in pain? When she and St. Joseph found him sitting calmly in the temple, her words revealed their concern: “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” The event prefigures Jesus’ three days in the tomb, when he will seem to be lost to his followers.
Losing someone—a husband, a child—floods us with an excruciating anguish. When they die, we may wonder in the depths of our hearts whether we will ever see them again. Are they lost to us forever? Our Catholic faith prompts us to surrender our doubts to God, who loves these people even more than we do. The parable of the Good Shepherd, who goes out of his way to find one sheep that has strayed, reveals that God doesn’t want to lose any of us.
When we find an item we thought was gone forever, we are filled with joy. Imagine the ecstasy we’ll experience, when we meet the people that we had to say goodbye to. The ones who suffered for a long time, the ones who died instantly. The babies who didn’t make it, the child who was stricken by cancer.
We are connected with love to these people while they are living, and that bond continues after they die. We show our love by the way we live. By surrendering our hearts to Jesus, even though we don’t understand why this happened to us. By having Masses celebrated for the repose of their souls, and by offering our grief and suffering to God for them. Rather than assuming everyone goes to heaven, let’s trust they need our help. As we pray the rosary, we may hear our loved ones chiming in within our hearts.
St. Paul promised us that heaven is beyond our wildest dreams. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” If we keep firm in our faith, we will someday embrace Jesus in the presence of angels, beneath a cerulean blue sky. And let’s pray that we may see, standing beside Jesus, the ones that we lost. The ones we helped find their way home to him through our prayers and sacrifices, and our enduring love.