We often imagine our own death, though typically what we picture is our funeral: what we would prefer in terms of arrangements and how we anticipate that others will react. Good enough, but all of that is going to happen without you, at least without the “you” that you currently know and understand. Perhaps we imagine our funeral rather than death itself because a funeral is something that we can understand, something easily enough imagined.
It is more fruitful, though, to imagine ourselves, just for a moment, on the other side of death. Not ourselves surrounded by mourners. Ourselves with the Lord. Imagination can help us to understand. It can also move our hearts and wills to God, which is how St. Francis de Sales defined Christian meditation. So, just for a moment, let us meditate. Let us imagine ourselves after death with the Lord.
Let us imagine ourselves on the other side of death. Not ourselves surrounded by mourners. Ourselves with the Lord.
The Soul: I do not know where I am or how I am, though I know that I am not in the world, not in or of the life that I once knew. I cannot explain how I know this or how I know that I am not dreaming. I simply know without possibility of doubt that everything has changed. Time and space no longer exist as I knew them, not that I ever thought much about them or would have claimed to understand them. They are in the past, that is, if there were such a thing as the past for me now.
The Lord: You are with me.
The Soul: How is it that I know this, when there is nothing of sight or sound that shows it to me? Yet I am sure of this, my Lord.
The Lord: You no longer know this or anything else in the manner you once did while you were in the world. Now you know as the angels do. Intuitively, without doubt, without any process of thought.
Now you know as the angels do. Intuitively, without doubt, without any process of thought.
The Soul: Yes, Lord. I know that I am in your presence just as surely as I know that I exist, though what else I can say about you or my existence I do not know.
The Lord: Your life has not prepared you for this. Again and again, while you were in the world, I called you into relationship with me, but you reduced faith to a system of rules and beliefs, many of which you ignored. You never grasped that the one purpose of your life was to become my friend. I told you:
As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love (Jn 15:9-10).
The Soul: My Lord, I now realize something that I could never have anticipated. We are not going to examine how I lived my life, are we? I always thought that this would be the great task of this moment.
It was never a question of a record being kept but of a reality coming to be.
The Lord: There is no need. You are who you are at this moment because of how you lived your life. It was never a question of a record being kept but of a reality coming to be. It was always a relationship. You have opened yourself to me, and now you are with you. You are your record. Yet you never fully blossomed into the person of whom I dreamt before I built the mountains or hung the stars. This is why you now possess me yet possess so little of me.
The Soul: I want to say that I did not know, but this place, this life with you, admits of no error, no half-truths. I realize now that my faith constantly called me to prayer, to open myself to change, to leave behind selfishness. It was calling me to you.
The Lord: I kept prompting you to surrender to the silence and to come to me in prayer. You kept pushing that to the bottom of your agenda of the things you had to do.
The Soul: Now I know the truth of gaining the world and losing the soul. And now what I called my world is gone.
Eternity is a ripening, a blossoming that knows no end.
The Lord: Yet rejoice, for you have not lost your soul! If that were the case you would not know me now, save as the source of bottomless regret. Now in my mercy and love for you I bring to completion what you began, so weakly, in the world. I bring you into blossom.
The Soul: How I marvel at the wonder of you, at the here and now of this endless moment, of what I know without effort of thought! Purgatory was not the word you would have chosen, was it?
The Lord: It is not a bad word. It suggests a process of purification, of letting go of all that is dross.
The Soul: But the image of the penal colony. There is nothing sad about this moment. I am on the porch of heaven. I am with you, and I know that I will always be with you, that I can no longer be lost to you. What blessed assurance, as they used to say. Yet I am not ready for you. I cannot take you in.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” That was once my command to you. Now, it is my promise.
The Lord: The purpose of your life was to prepare yourself for a truth, a beauty, a love and a fullness that you never knew in the world—to ready yourself for me. Coming from such darkness, you must now come more fully into the light.
The Soul: Yes, Lord. And if I had opened myself more in that half-life, which is now closed, it would be different here and now. How did I miss that? How did I fail to recognize you in my brothers and sisters? How did I not understand that to grow in you was to be transformed into your life? That the evolution of the cosmos only existed so that my soul could evolve into you, into a life that is of your making, one that can only be given by you, in the act of loving you, of loving others in you.
Still another surprise: This moment knows no change. It does not alter in time or space, where all change occurs. Yet, already, it is different.
The Lord: Eternity is a ripening, a blossoming that knows no end.
The Soul: Lord, how I love you, and, as I love you, how I know you!
The Lord: Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love (1 Jn 4:8).
The Soul: Lord, how simple it seems now. We learn to love, and in learning to love we love you and know you and are held in you and by you.
The Lord: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9). That was once my command to you. Now, it is my promise.