Most of us feel, at one time or another (for some people, multiple times), that certain loved ones who have gone before us have come back for a visit. I’m not talking about hauntings but about the strong sense of another’s presence. It may happen when we are under great stress, and we feel that a grandmother or sibling or close friend is suddenly beside us, even though that person is deceased. We may feel such presence during a family celebration or on a significant anniversary. Or there may be no apparent reason for the visitation, but we feel it happening. In many cases, it brings great comfort, feelings of joy and peace.
What is happening, really? No one knows, and if they say they know, they speak foolishly. Christians believe that people have souls that live eternally. We do believe there is life after death. Beyond that, we have only bits and pieces of theology. There are many theories about how this soul business works. And many of us have experiences we cannot explain. But we trust experience, and we trust the loving Holy Spirit that hovers over all creation, the God whose love permeates all existence, including existence after death.
Also, Christians believe in “the communion of saints.” What that means is, I am still in community with people throughout time, living and dead. At some level of existence, we are together in God—or, in the terminology of the Church, we are in the Body of Christ—and death does not change that. Our experience changes because of death. Our perception changes, and our participation with deceased loved ones certainly changes.
But the reality is ultimately one of hope and comfort. When we remember loved ones who have died, we can entrust their souls to God’s care. We can do this over and over again. We intuitively know that no one ever stops growing, that our journey with God continues beyond age and beyond death. So our prayers support the journeys of the people who have crossed death’s threshold.
This week, take time to remember in detail loved ones who are over that threshold. Thank God for them, and pray for them.