I'm going to talk about something a little different this week, something a little sad and tough. But I promise, there's an uplifting point. This week, I'm going to talk about death and how God can use painful things for good. Stick with me, I promise it will be worth it.
Death is one of the hardest things to come to terms with as mortal beings. Many people try to forget death by living in the moment and trying to squeeze all the fun they can out of each and every moment (people like Post Malone and Antonio Brown who are often partying and in the headlines are good examples), but at some point we all have to sit down and realize that there is something more than life on this Earth. As Catholics, we believe that Heaven awaits us on the other side, but the unknown of death is still scary.
I came face to face with this last week when I heard that a friend of mine had died. His name was Roland Lavoie, and he was 78. I had known Roland for most of my life, seeing him frequently at my home parish, St. Pius X in Middletown. From the time I was a young kid, he was always very kind to me and would ask my mom how I was doing when he saw her. After I graduated college and came back to Middletown, he would always get my attention at the end of mass by calling out "Mr. Regis!" if I hadn't seen him.
When I heard that Roland had passed away, I was saddened. It's never easy to hear that a friend or loved one isn't here on Earth with us any more, as I'm sure you know if you've ever been in a similar situation. I decided to go with my mom to his funeral the next day, and what I saw there did two things for me: It made me proud to be a Catholic, and it made me extremely grateful that God's the one with the plan (and not me!).
Strange, right? Funerals are supposed to be sad, aren't they? Sure, there's sorrow inherent in death, and there was sorrow at Roland's funeral, too. But what stuck with me the most was the community and love that I saw there. I've been to a few funerals, but this was one of the best-attended I've seen. There must've been 100-150 people there! I was especially struck by what the priest said in his homily.
He spoke about how he saw Roland at the daily 9am mass each and every day, without fail. He spoke about how the two of them had bonded over their shared health concerns, and how they had become close friends after just a few months of knowing each other. As the priest said these things, I glanced over at Roland's family and saw them both smiling and crying; they had no idea that Roland had made such an impact on this priest.
I'll bet you they had no idea the impact that Roland had had on me, either. Interestingly enough, I bet you Roland himself didn't even know how much he affected people. And that, ladies and gents, is the entire point. We don't and will never (at least until, God willing, we get to Heaven), know the effect that we have on the people and the world around us. But that's not for us to know, it's for God to know and plan for.
Hopefully you've all seen "It's a Wonderful Life." If you haven't, stop reading my little blog post and go watch the greatest Christmas movie of all time! It came out like 75 years ago what are you doing?? But for those righteous folk who have seen it, you'll know that the climax of the movie involves a man being shown what the world would be like if he didn't exist. Of course it would be a much darker place, and he's done much more good in his lifetime than he could've ever imagined.
This is exactly what I'm talking about. Every single thing that we do, even the difficult, painful things, can be used by God for His glory. I'm sure there are things that I've done that I don't even think about anymore that have had a much larger impact than I know. Look at Roland! Roland did a lot of good in his life that I'm sure he didn't fully grasp (because he's not God). He even did a lot of good in his death.
Although he couldn't have known it, Roland's passing from this life brought the St. Pius community together. His family came to his funeral, of course, but there were dozens of people there who had gotten to know him at mass and other parish events, through simple little daily interactions. Small, little acts of kindness over years and years that added up to form the image that we all had of Roland at his funeral: a funny, kind, brutally honest, sometimes cranky, intelligent, caring man who will be missed.
What does this mean for you? That's easy. First, make a point to thank God for those moments where the curtain is pulled back just enough that we see a glimpse of His plan. Look for them and appreciate them when they come. Secondly, the next time you're going through something difficult, painful, or seemingly unfair, remember that it's not pointless. God uses all things for some good, and even though we may not see it, that fact can bring us comfort.
I pray that you are able to see the good in the painful things in life, and that God will grace you with those little glimpses of His plan.