Editor’s Note: God’s Grace & Friendship
If you died today, how would you be remembered? Would the people you love most be well taken care of? In the thick of postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of my first child, I fixated on these types of questions every day: “What would happen if I died today and my daughter never knew her own mother?”
That seems a very grim meditation immediately following the birth of a child. But as birth ushers in new life, so, too, came the realization that both she and I will one day die.
While obsessing over all the ways I might meet an untimely end and thus leave my newborn motherless, I tried to focus on what I could do to actually prepare for my own death. My thoughts went first to my family. I thought about the mementos I could prepare so my daughter would have something of me if – when – I died. Then there was the more practical need for a will. What would my husband do? I needed to plan for that, too.
But in quiet moments when I held my daughter in my arms, rocking her to sleep, listening to the sound of my own heartbeat (ensuring in those moments of intense, irrational postpartum anxiety that it was, in fact, still beating), I tried to quiet my mind. I sought Christ. I prayed for my daughter, my husband, myself. I prayed for those mothers who died young. I found peace in the familiarity and comfort in the repetition of the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary,” and I begged that peace to stay.
While I would love to tell you that my prayers cured my postpartum anxiety, they did not. But they did provide the clarity I needed to seek additional care for my mental wellbeing. And they forged a path to a tentative understanding of death as a part of Catholic Christian life.
I was in the process of converting to Catholicism at the time, and part of that, of course, was reading and getting to know the Catechism. Inside its pages is the following passage: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.” (CCC 1030).
There is enormous comfort in these words, in knowing that when I die – and when my family dies – we are assured of our eternal salvation through the grace of God.
This issue of The Catholic Telegraph focuses on the end of life. While discomfort and anxiety may flood the hearts and minds of some at the mention of death, the articles contained herein will help you reflect on “God’s grace and friendship” in this life and provide hope for the next.