While we don’t know the number of people in heaven, we do know they all have one thing in common. Everyone in heaven has died. Death is an unavoidable fact of life. So is mourning, therefore. This leads us to consider the beatitude that says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” This beatitude says the quality of life of the blessed is such that they are blessed even in mourning.
When we think of someone who is blessed, we probably don’t think in terms of mourning. A pastor reports how a widow once asked him, “Why did my husband have to die when there are all those people with no morals walking around?” This is an example of how loss seems senseless. It is hard to see any blessing in mourning in such a case.
Of course, much in life doesn’t make sense. There is a lot of chaos in evidence. Christian theology attributes this fact to what is called the Fall, which explains that creation is not as designed originally but is corrupted. Death is a result of this corruption; not God’s original design. Thus we see the hand of a benevolent creator at work ordering creation, and we also see destruction and chaos, just as we see the beauty designed and created by the builder even as we see the decay when we look upon an ancient ruin.
Accepting the fact we are creatures inhabiting a fallen creation, we might let go of the delusion that loss can be avoided. We might accept every relationship is impermanent. With this acceptance, we might cherish our loved ones as the fragile treasure they are with no delusions about the temporary nature of earthly existence. We might be mindful. We might value our relationships. This is, indeed, a blessed way of life.
There is a promise connected to this beatitude. The promise is not that we will never mourn, but that we will be comforted in our mourning. There is the comfort of community surrounding us in our grief. There is much that is done by the community in a time of loss. There are the meals that are prepared. There are the embraces. There are the prayers.
Within family, the most basic community in which we live, there are the stories that are told. There are the memories that keep our loved one alive in our hearts. There are the links that connect us with the one we lost. There is the legacy that is continued. This gives comfort.
Ultimately, there is the comfort of the hope of heaven. We can’t hold on to those we love in this life, but God can, and does, hold them in his love eternally. We have the great hope of heaven; where our relationships will be restored and perfected, where there will be no more mourning.
As we journey through this life in a fallen world, we accept that we will mourn. There is blessing to be realized in this difficult fact of life when we accept the nature of our all too human existence and have the comfort of community, family, and especially heaven.
Deacon Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.