by Father Mark Goldasich
Just saying the number caused both of us to go silent in the car. Last Sunday afternoon, as my mom and I were heading out to lunch after Mass, we started to talk about my dad, whose birthday falls on All Saints’ Day. Mom asked, “Hey, how old would your dad be this year?”
That’s when the number 99 was uttered. After a pause, Mom said, “No, that can’t be right, because your dad was four years older than me and I’m . . .”
“Ninety-five,” I finished for her.
“Ejoj! (pronounced “E-Yo-E”),” we uttered as one. This Croatian phrase, popularized by my godmother, means “Holy cow!” or “Wow!”
Where do the years go? Not only was it hard to believe how old my dad would have been this year. It’s more shocking still that 32 years have gone by since he died.
It’s November now, a month for remembrance, especially of those who have gone before us to the other side of life. The church starts us off with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. As the trees lose their leaves and the days grow ever shorter, we naturally tend to do some reflection on our own lives that are passing — where we’ve been and where we’re going.
With that in mind, consider this story, told by the evangelist Billy Graham:
Once Albert Einstein was on a train, heading to an out-of-town engagement. The conductor stopped to punch his ticket. The great scientist, preoccupied with his work, with great embarrassment rummaged through his coat pockets and briefcase, but couldn’t find his ticket.
The conductor said, “We all know who you are, Dr. Einstein. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Everything is OK.”
He continued down the aisle, punching other tickets. Before moving on to the next car, he glanced back and saw Einstein down on his hands and knees looking under his seat, trying to find his ticket. The conductor came back and gently said, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry about it. I know who you are.”
At this, Einstein looked up and said, “I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going!” (Adapted from “Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion,” by Craig Larson and Drew Zahn.)
It’s not a bad idea as this year comes to a close to ask: Do I know where I’m going? Am I on the right track or have I gotten derailed?
Remembering our deceased loved ones can help us to answer these questions. For example, I might ask: If my dad were here today, what would he think about the choices I’ve made so far in life? What would he commend me for and where would he give me tips for improvement to make the best of my remaining days?
Don’t let the month of November pass without some reflection with your deceased loved ones. AS our Hispanic friends celebrate Day of the Dead, follow their lead. Visit a cemetery where your loved ones are buries, pray there, bring flowers, weed around the grave and clean off the headstone as a sign of respect and gratitude.
Schedule a time this month — in addition to Thanksgiving — just to
sit down and share family memories, stories and laughs. Bring out photos, mementos or scrapbooks that tell your family history or play tapes and movies that feature family members who have died. Having a Day of the Dead, far from being depressing, can rekindle the love we shared with those who are no longer on this earth and inspire us to live our lives well, so that we can one day be with them and the Lord for all eternity.
You know, while writing this, I came to the realiza- tion that my mom might be right after all about
my math. If my dad really was 99 on Nov. 1, then that would make me about to turn 58 in a few weeks and . . . yeah, never mind. Ejoj!