Remember loved ones

heather    November is typically the month of remembrance in the Catholic Church, noted in the earlier celebration of All Souls Day. We begin the month by recalling our loved ones and those who have passed before us, which ushers in a season of remembering all that we have to be thankful for.
    As we grow older, death takes on a more significant and concrete role in our lives as we begin to think about our own mortality.
    I remember when I was younger, death was an abstract and “far away” concept. I couldn’t imagine a world in which my great-grandparents would not pick me up from school and await my parents as they came home from work.
    Now, as I face the reality of a life without particular relatives who have passed on, death and dying have become a part of everyday life.
    Today, as I face the challenges of life, it has become increasingly clearer just how quickly life can be taken from us. One example is driving to work each morning in rush-hour traffic. I see cars speed by to get to their destinations on time.
    More than once, I have seen cars speeding through red lights, almost causing accidents. At one particularly confusing intersection, I found myself at a red light, watching a car about to have a severe accident. If the driver had not  run the red light, he would have been stopped in the middle of oncoming traffic.
    Luckily, the driver must have realized his mistake, because he sped through the light, avoiding an accident.
    In times like these, we realize how short life is: because of poor judgment, that person could have been killed or caused an accident that seriously injured someone else.
    We’ve all experienced these kinds of close calls and bad decisions, whether while driving or at other points of our lives. It’s for these reasons that we must learn never to take life for granted.
    At the Mass for All Souls, I wrote the names of my great-grandparents and my grandmother in the book to be remembered. During November, especially during the Mass, I am always reminded of my relatives who have died. I like to think they are watching over me as I continue my journey in life.
    During moments of crisis or moments where I think those relatives would have enjoyed my actions or situations, I like to imagine what they would have said or done. However, even in these moments of remembrance, I am always haunted by the things that I could have done differently when they were alive. I could have talked to them more or paid more attention during the times that we were visiting.
    We always hear that hindsight is 20-20, that we know more now looking back than we did previously. But nowhere do I find that cliché to be truer than in remembering the lives of my relatives. This is precisely the message that I think we are called to remember during our celebration of the lives that have gone before us. We must act toward each other as though it were our last days on earth. We must live without regrets, without taking things for granted now while we have the opportunities to act.
    It is fitting that the month of November begins with a remembrance of the dead and ends with a remembrance of the living and all that we have to celebrate with gratitude, in our celebration of Thanksgiving. This holiday is more than football, revelry and gluttony, but a holiday for a joyous outpouring of gratitude and remembrance.
    We are called to give thanks for the gifts that God has given us in our lives, but particularly within the past year.
    This November, as we prepare for Thanksgiving, remember the lives of those who have gone before us, learn never to take things for granted and give thanks for all that God has blessed us with in our lives.
    Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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