Anyone whom God loves never ceases to be. In him, in his thinking and loving, it is not just a shadow of us that continues in being; rather, in him and his creative love we ourselves, with all that we are and all that is most ourselves, are preserved immortally and forever in being. It is his love that makes us immortal.
Dogma and Preaching, p. 116
Reflection – “Those who have died live on in our memories, in our hearts.” This has become the standard line in many quarters, to deal with the problem of death and loss. It is so prevalent that it is almost becoming the normal cultural trope for life after death. The idea of actually continuing to exist in one’s personal being after physical death, a basic insight about the nature of human life for millennia, is becoming less and less familiar to many.
It is a deeply inadequate way of resolving the problem of death and grief. My mother died last November. The youngest person in our family who carries significant memories of her that he will carry for the rest of his life is 12 years old (if you’re reading this, hi, Mike!). So, if mom is alive primarily or solely in ‘the hearts and memories’ of those who loved her, that gives her at most another 80 to 90 years of life. What then? When the last person who knew you dies, is that it for you? What good is that?
But we live in God’s memory, and in His memory we are truly alive. We only live now, in our bodily temporal life, because God is thinking of us and loving us right now. His creative intention towards us sustains us in being in a continuous fashion. We truly live in the mind of God, but this mind of God bestows upon us substantial life, real existence.And this is what carries us over the threshold of death. Not the good wishes and fond memories of our loved ones, precious as these are. Not some kind of mastery of our own over the processes of life, which is the current dream of the trans-humanists. But the love of our Father in heaven and his desire that we spend eternity with Him, his irrevocable choice to hold us in Being, even if we are so unwise as to refuse to spend eternity with Him—this is the hope that sustains us across the mysterious one-way passage from this life to what comes after it. We know very little about that ‘after’, but we know that the Father’s love awaits us there, as it accompanies us here.