Gratitude Through Grief

By Father Jack Loughran, OSFS; Provincial/Toledo-Detroit Province

Last week I was on the 45-minute drive from my home in Adrian, MI, to my office at St. Francis High School in Toledo, OH. That afternoon I presided at the funeral of Brother James Dorazio, OSFS. Brother Jim died on October 9 at 88 years of age. The day was well planned. My morning was filled with setting up the reception at the Oblate residence, setting up the church, meeting the funeral directors, informing lectors and other ministers at the Mass of their responsibilities, and greeting Brother Jim’s family from PA and MD.

As I drove, thinking about the funeral and Brother Jim, a man I have known for over 50 years, I also began thinking of my older brother’s funeral, which occurred just five days before. Somehow, my thoughts and feelings for both men started to intertwine, and grief hit me like a slap in the face. My eyes welled up and sadness filled my heart. It is a good thing the drive was 45 minutes long; the time allowed me to pull myself together and face my tasks undistracted when I arrived in Toledo.

Brother Jim died after a very long and fruitful life. My brother, Gary, died at 77, but his life was not as linear as Brother Jim’s. Ten years before his death, my brother began to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease. I am sure you know what the journey for him and his wife was like following that diagnosis. It was not easy, to say the least.

As I drove, both deaths coming so close together, set my mind and heart into a whirlwind of emotion and thoughts. We all face this when we lose someone we love. While I am still dealing with grief and the millions of memories that arrive following the death of both of these men, I am stepping back a bit today and looking at what death means for those of us who have the risen Christ at the center of our faith.

I believe it is not uncommon for people to think our faith should be our strength and guide at times like these, and to succumb to grief, loss, and sadness is somehow a betrayal of that faith. The great consolation for me in this is the story of the raising of Lazarus by Christ. Even though he told those who followed him that he was going to Bethany to raise Lazarus, upon his arrival there, Jesus wept. Christ himself has sanctified grief, loss, and sadness. These feelings reflect the power of the sacredness of our love for others and our need for one another.

I cannot imagine facing the death of those I love without my belief in the resurrection and the hope of eternal life in God’s reign. That faith is not disturbed by my grief, but it gratefully illuminates the hope in which our faith allows us to live. So, while I had my moment of despair on that daily trip I made to Toledo, I also found consolation in Christ and the resurrection. I am eternally grateful to God for this gift and to those who nurtured it in me.

“Unhappy is death without the love of Christ;
unhappy is love without the death of Christ!”

Saint Francis de Sales