All except the youngest among us know first-hand the sense of loss that follows the death of someone we respected, enjoyed, valued or loved. To live means to lose those we care about: parents, spouses, children, good friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors and acquaintances. Everyone we know, including ourselves, is moving inexorably towards death. It is the one thing we can confidently count on.
For those with Faith however, death is not the end of the story. We really don’t know much about what existence after death is like. We do not have the categories nor the vocabulary to be able to describe it. In our present condition we are limited to experiencing time as a constant flow forward. On the other side we probably will experience time – and hence space – differently. Eternity is just something we cannot experience, nor adequately describe, in our present condition. Now we are just too limited. But then we shall be larger and freer and understand much better.
Because we believe in the resurrection of the body – and again, we cannot adequately describe what that will be like – we can confidently say that it will be Fr. Bob Scott who we will meet on the other side of the grave. Not his image or shadow but the reality of him. The resurrection of the body guarantees that Fr. Bob Scott, with his bright smile and infectious chuckle, will be there to meet us. He will not have dissolved into some amorphous flow of energy indistinguishable from any other. The resurrection of the body assures us of the continuing, indeed eternal, existence of the entity we know and love as Fr. Bob Scott. And of course the same is true for all of our loved ones and for us.
Heaven is not so much a place as a way of being. Recently I had a wonderful vacation to Oregon. I enjoyed seeing Paulist buddies in Portland, including Fr. Jim Kolb, with whom I worked in Alaska. We had a great time recounting Alaskan adventures. I then went to Mt. Angel and had a delightful visit with Fr. Bob Michele. He was stationed here at St. Austin for many years, and it was great to see him chipper and doing so well. I then went on to Bend, Oregon, to visit old friends from North Pole, Alaska. We spent hours catching up as I learned about what their kids are doing now. We traveled together to visit Crater Lake, which was truly gorgeous. Then I drove to Eugene to visit a good friend, Bettina, from my time in New York City. And so on. It was great meeting old friends, sharing stories and renewing friendships!
Well, I think my vacation is a little something what heaven will be like: a lot of catching up with family and friends, people we knew and loved, as well as making lots and lots of new friends. In it all God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – will be present. It will be the best vacation of all. As one of the prayers from the funeral liturgy states: “One day we shall joyfully greet Fr. Bob Scott again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.”