Are you afraid of death?
Well, I can’t say that I have
any great affection for it.
Look below you, my friend.
For 70 years,
I’ve watched the seasons change.
I’ve seen the vibrant life of summer,
the brilliant death of fall…
the silent grave of winter.
And then, I’ve seen
the resurrection of spring
the glorious birth of new life.
And my father and my father’s father
have seen it before me.
Nothing ever dies, my friend.
Prince of Foxes Screenplay, 1949
My twins’ godmother wrote this to Donnie my surviving son this week:
Happy baptism anniversary! I’ve been thinking lately about how precious the gift of life is. I wrote an article on it for the parish newsletter. I was thinking about Larry when I wrote about people with different abilities. I had a chance to stop by his grave on my way back from a workshop on Saturday. So I thought I’d share part of the article with you:
The Gift of Life
God loves you. God just loves you. And the best evidence that God loves you is that he created you. God can create anyone that he wishes to and he can see how each person will grow and develop, so he’d be nuts to create someone that he didn’t love. But he’s not nuts. He has chosen to love you. His love is the spark of life in your soul, the beat of your heart, and the breath in your lungs. When we “die,” his life in us changes, but does not end. We continue to live as his creation, deeply, deeply loved by him forever.
The gift of life is the evidence that God loves us, not just you, but each of us. Perhaps this is why we value life so much. The love and respect that we have for every person is an expression of the love and respect that we have for God. Emergency workers, for example, often risk their own lives to save others. What we share with others God counts as having been shared with himself. Parents, for example, give more than they thought possible to care for their children.
God’s love for us does not depend on our age or abilities. It begins when he begins to knit us together in our mother’s womb and continues forever. Before our bodies are formed, before we think our first thought, before our talents are known, before our parents know of our existence, God has chosen to create us because he loves us.
As we grow through life, all of us are loved by God. Whether we’re athletically gifted or klutzy, whether conventionally beautiful or unattractive, whether we find it easy to love and trust others or not, whether intelligent or simple, whatever our gifts and talents, we are loved by God. Even if we are hurt by abuse, or trauma, or addiction, or accident, God loves us. We know that he loves us because of his gift of life. And the loving care that we have for others, regardless of their gifts, shows that we are learning to love as God loves.
No matter how we leave this life, God’s gift of life continues. If you die in an accident, if you are struck down suddenly by disease, if you linger for many years as dependent as a child, if you die gently in old age, no matter what, God loves you and his gift of life continues forever. The respect and care that we have for those nearing the end of this life shows that we get it, that we understand how precious is God’s gift of life.
Life never ends and God’s love never ends. They continue in the next life. It may be that the only way we can continue to express our love for those who have passed on is by our prayers. And this, too, shows that we have learned from God how to value his gift of life.
October is Respect for Life month, but respect for life is an everyday thing. We constantly express it in the way we love and care for others, regardless of their age and abilities, but simply because God loves them, as he loves us. But it’s good to recognize everyday things and to appreciate their value.
Julian and Adrian Riester were identical twins. They came into this world 92 years ago, on March 27, 1919. Their advent probably surprised their parents after a run of five daughters! They attended Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. They attempted to join the military during World War II, but were turned away due to poor eyesight. They became Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name province in New York. Continue reading