by Father Mark Goldasich
OK, let’s see: 60 minus 23 equals 36.
Ever since I was a kid, I remember doing this special subtraction math. Now, you might think that my answer of 36 is incorrect. You would be wrong to assume that. This special math is something that I did whenever my folks and I visited the cemetery. For some reason, I was always curious about how old relatives and friends were when they died.
The example above is one that was always sobering
for me. I had a wonderful Aunt Bernice, who married my Uncle George Modrcin, known popularly as Fuzzy. She was born on April 11, 1923, and died on April 9, 1960, just a couple of days shy of what would have been her 37th birthday. That’s why my opening math is correct.
My thoughts turn to loved ones who have died as we enter the month of November, a time set aside by the church for this purpose. It’s comforting for me to know that the dead are never forgotten in the church.
Your parish bulletin each week lists Mass intentions across from the times of the Masses. While those are the people that the celebrant remembers in his prayers, every Mass contains a prayer for the dead, such as this one from Eucharistic Prayer 3: “To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom.”
The older I’ve gotten, the more significant those dates of birth and death have become. As a kid, I really didn’t understand how young my Aunt Bernice was when she died. Now, I do. I believe that the faithful departed remind us to make the most of our time here on earth, to appreciate and cherish and live fully each day that the Lord gives us.
Check out this odd story by Rex Huppke that originally appeared in the Chicago Trib in 2006:
Dave Davila, 24, took a job in Chicago and had to leave his close-knit family in East Moline, Illinois. But family gatherings weren’t the same without Dave. So his mother took a digital photo of Dave, had it blown up to his actual height of 5 feet 8 inches, and mounted it on heavy cardboard.
At first, Flat Dave just showed up and stood quietly by at family gatherings. Then word spread throughout the community, and he became something of a celebrity in East Moline. “Complete strangers want to pose with him,” said his brother Dan. “I think Flat Dave’s actually better looking than Dave.”
Sometimes things get somewhat awkward for the real Dave — the one the family now calls Thick Dave. “I’m in Chicago talking to my mom on the phone and she says, ‘Hold on, I’ve got to load you in the van.’ It’s a little weird.” (Adapted from “1001 Illus- trations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, general editors.)
Don’t we, the living, have a tendency to become “flat,” to be no more than a cardboard cutout, to overlook or simply take for granted the beauty to be found in each day of our lives? Let’s be conscious, especially during November, of the gift of being alive.
If possible this month, visit a cemetery where your relatives and friends are buried. Pray for the happy repose of their souls and decorate their graves with flowers.
And don’t forget to do that special subtraction math. It will help you to “C sharp” — to appreciate life for the miracle that it is — guaranteeing that you’ll live your days fully and gratefully and rarely again “B flat.”