The beginning of November is the time of the year when I truly take the time to think about the ones who have left us, many who loved us, and many whom we have loved. And thinking of this love, during All Saints and All Souls, I spend time in remembrance of my dear grandmothers Rafaela and Basi.
Grandma Rafaela was the first person besides my parents that I remember loving consciously. My love for her mirrored how she loved me. She was a real present for me, the same way she told me I was a present for her. She used to say to me I was a gift given to her by God… Can you imagine someone telling you this and meaning it? Growing up, she lived close to me, and I spent much time with her. As much as I am physically, mentally, and spiritually the son of my parents, I believe that Grandma Rafaela gave so much of herself to me that a big part of her heart melded in mine. Her heart lives in my heart.
When Rafaela passed from this world, my heart ached badly, but I was consoled by the signs we all saw and felt, as if she was being escorted from this world by the very hand of Our Blessed Mother Mary. And it is amazing to me how that memory settles down my aching heart. Our Hope is indeed present and alive. We are here now, but we are built for the eternal.
My relationship with Grandma Basi was different. She lived in New York and was far from me during my childhood years. Most of the time, we spoke over the phone, and only for a minute or two. It was not until adulthood that I established a real one-on-one relationship with her, but I remember her beautifully clear eyes lighting up in joy whenever she saw me. Love poured out of her for me, and she could not help but raise her hand to touch my face. I remember those blessed moments we spent time together with deep gratitude.
Grandma Basi was strong, a force of nature. There was never any indecision in her that I ever saw, and her strength of conviction reminded me of the stubbornness of a mountain, unmovable. We would go when she decided, walk when she decided, and eat when she decided, and always with great conviction. I would be visiting her, and she would “suggest strongly” to call my father so we could spend time together on the phone. She loved to have us speak and interact together, for I think she saw in us an extension of herself moving around in the world, and I loved her for that.
As strong as Basi was, we know that time is undefeated, even if it plays the long game with the strong. I saw my dear Grandma Basi descend into weakness and eventually illness and suffering, yet she endured all the way to age 97. I got to witness a bit of this process, and I can say that her courage and spirit were inspiring. The simpleness of her needs in her late life reminded me that most things do not matter as much as we think. I learned from her that as we descend into the time of our call home, we are left with memories of what we have done right and wrong and the longing to love more and be loved more. We long for connection.
The first time Grandma Basi’s heart stopped, she was brought back from death and resuscitated in the hospital. And I remember all the joy the family had, that she was brought back to us, yet Grandma Basi was beside herself with sadness. “I was sent back. Why would He send me back?” I remember telling her she was sent back, not because she was not ready for the next step, but because WE were not prepared for her to go yet. And Grandma Basi got to live among us for a few more years.
Most of the family got to spend more time with her and were able to say our thanks, make our amends, and share in the simplicity of her life. I know I learned much from that blessed time together. When she finally passed on from this earthly place, I felt we were all in a better place. We were all sad, but we knew it was the right time. We believed and trusted, in our Faith and Hope, that she would be embraced differently this time, for her mission among us was done. She passed in peace.
While writing this, I cried a few tears. Such is love that it longs for the ones gone before us, but what was next for them?
From what I know of these two beautiful souls, I would like to think they are both saints in Heaven because they were good and saintly in many ways. But how can I say that with certainty? Even though there were many signs around the times they left this world, I cannot, for a fact, say that they are both indeed in Heaven. I feel strongly in my heart that they are right now looking at the light of God’s face, but the reality of it is that we just do not know.
If we assume that whoever is close to us, who has been loving, kind, and good, is also perfectly faithful and without fault, then maybe we are doing a bit of a disservice to them. It is entirely possible, and very likely, that the ones who have gone, the ones we loved, the ones who loved us, are in dire need of our prayers.
For those considered Saints by the Church, we pray for their support for us, but for those souls still imperfect, we are indeed called to pray for them as intercessors.
If we consider our loved ones who have gone as saints, we may end up not praying for them. I must remind myself every so often of that. As I look up to Heaven, thinking of the ones that have left, the ones that loved me, the ones I loved, I need to pray to God for their souls that they may eventually be with Him, looking at the light of His face in Heaven.
I do hope that we can faithfully pray for all the people who have left us. They have gone before us. May they eventually pray for us as we have prayed for them and cheer for us on our path to Heaven.
Let us pray: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” (Prayer for the Faithful Departed)