Love Eternal

February 19 2014 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: It has been 5 years now since death took Geoffrey, my dear husband, away from me. We really loved each other and were married for over 40 years – raising two lovely children in the process.

Every evening I pray for him and ask him help to face the many difficulties of widowhood: I am now living by myself. My children, unfortunately, live far away: one is in Australia while the other is residing in another town about 300 miles from here.

Friar, can Geoffrey hear my prayers? Can he see me and help me? Does an afterlife really exist?


I am so sorry for your pain. For many people 5 years would seem like enough time to grieve such a loss. But as a good friend of mine who is a widow once said to me: You never really ‘get over’ the loss of your spouse, but you do learn how to keep living. I pray and hope that you are well on that journey of continuing to live, while at the same time cherishing the memory of your husband. However, as Christians, our faith is grounded in something much more than just memory.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed the number of sympathy cards that you can buy at the store that refer to keeping the deceased person alive through our memory of them and by following in their path; whether it be a passion for music, care for the family or taking on the family business. It’s all quite nice at some level; but oh so woefully inadequate in contrast to the Christian faith.

When someone we love dies, it strikes at our heart. The sadness we feel tends to be quite intense. It’s quite understandable to have questions and even doubts. I remember when one of my close friends died and I was present in the room with his family. He went from living, breathing (albeit on a respirator), to not breathing and dying. It was very difficult to grasp what seemed to be going from being to non-being. A few months later I was preparing a homily and it involved death and resurrection, and I remember thinking about this and asking myself: “Do I really believe this?” I mean, I watched a man die before my very eyes. It was so final, so absolute. “Is this resurrection belief just something that helps us ‘hold it together’? Is it really a placebo?” If I, a man of faith, a religious and a priest, can have such passing moments of doubt then certainly I can appreciate that you would too. It’s normal to doubt. And it’s also normal to believe. Let me explain.

I was being interviewed for TV a while back, and the interview was taking place at the interviewer’s house. The man was an avowed atheist. After we finished filming the show, as he was leading me out to the door, we passed by a baby’s room. It was quite pretty. His face lit up as he started talking about his newborn daughter, and he showed me around her room. He turned to me and said ever so gently, “You know, every since she’s been born, I secretly come into the room and watch her sleep. I look at her and I love her so much; more than I have ever loved anyone or anything before. And you know, I can’t imagine that my love for her could ever die. It has to be forever!” It’s through the power of love that he began to question his atheism. Hopefully that journey has taken him closer to God. It certainly reminded me that Jesus’ love for us is so much greater than any love we can have experienced. His love is so powerful and so complete that it broke the bounds of death. It is eternal. This I believe!

No one knows for sure what it’s like to be in heaven… or on the way there. We know that our deceased loved ones can benefit from our prayers as they grow closer to God. The Church also teaches us that they, in turn, can pray for us. It reminds me of another story when I was at an All Souls Day Mass at Santa Clara University in California. The presider preached a wonderful homily on the resurrection. And then as the liturgy progressed and the time came for communion, the procession song we sang was the Litany of the Saints. OMG, I cried like a baby! Truly in the Eucharist we are gathered into the One Body of Christ, and there we have a foretaste of the closeness we will have with those we have loved and with the One who loves us the most: Our Risen Lord.


Updated on October 06 2016