Last Saturday, nestled in the midst of household busyness and the refrain of restless winds in the trees, an old memory returned to me. That of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, her Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory prayer and the departed. I do remember to pray for my faithful friends, the Holy Souls, from time to time. But lately, too busy digging holes in my vineyard, it had been too long since I went deep into those prayers. Since we were to attend sunset Mass that evening, I made up my mind to take the Holy Souls along.
However, as usual, I got sidetracked and it was only just before the elevation of the Eucharist that I remembered them, some friend I am. I rushed to place loved ones and relatives who needed the power of the Mass before the altar. I usually tack on groups of others but I didn’t this time. I didn’t feel the need to. That day was all about relatives.
Once done, my mind left them and went traipsing elsewhere.
Early Sunday morning, I learned anew the worth of prayers. I dreamed of a place almost like Nepal. Narrow streets, crowded poor. Women, children, mothers out and about. As I moved through them, no one seemed to see me. I made my way through the knot of people and the weave of dull streets to a wide building at the edge of that place. It was an old building, big, cheerless, yet not dark nor forbidding. Everything about that town and streets and various structures seemed aged, poor, but not neglected.
I entered the building. It was like a big house with rooms upstairs. It was bare and unadorned. There were no curtains on the dull windows. These windows were in need of a wash. Somehow, I sensed this was not because they were grimy; just that they needed some cleaning for light to come through.
As I stepped into the empty foyer, in the dream, I thought,
I hope she has packed.
Just then, I saw two people glide quickly past me, out of the front door. I could not retain how they looked like, it was as if I was not allowed to see their faces clearly, to know them.
But one of them, face blurred, smiled sunnily at me. I somehow knew it was a woman. And although I couldn’t make out her face, my spirit knew her.
As I turned towards the door she and the other person had misted through, I saw a big pile of small boxes. Plain, mud-coloured boxes. All of the same size, just stacked in a heap by the door.
On them was printed 2 names in thick, black ink-
Some boxes belonged to Betty, some to this Jobbiah.
I don’t know who Jobbiah is but Betty was my cousin who had passed away tragically from a medical overdose some 14 years ago.
Back in the day, Betty was very much a part of our lives and of many others’ too. She took a very keen interest in every event and detail and was always chasing down issues that didn’t need her interference. We were very fond of her but there was no disguising the fact that Betty was an inveterate busybody. She was not a troublemaker. She didn’t go around upsetting people, but neither was she someone who brought much good anywhere for all her meddling.
Betty had a ear for everything and it kept her too busy. It took her away from duties to home and hearth. She had a husband who adored her just for who she was and he never tried to reign her in even when he should have. Consequently, Betty’s circle and depth of meddling widened considerably over the years.
Truth be told, if ever we needed a sympathetic shoulder or an eagerly listening ear for gossip, Betty was the one to go to. She was the sort to moan and weep with us. Not as likely to always rejoice over others’ good fortune, but she was good natured for the most part.
No matter what, I loved my cousin. That old February day she died, I lost someone I cared for and who cared for me as deeply, perhaps even more than I would ever know.
Since her death, I’ve tried to pray for her but I could sense that my prayers were being blocked. They would not travel far. After a time, I stopped. Not out of a lack of charity. But because I trusted that as there is a time for everything under the sun, when the time of prayers for Betty had come, my spirit would know it.
That dream of Betty and the boxes tells of the worth of every form of prayer – Masses, of words, of sacrifices. Betty has packed up and is ready to leave that place of brown~grey emptiness because of the various forms of prayers of us here on this earth. We have been taught that while the Poor Souls can pray for us and journey with us, they can no longer pray for themselves after death. Their change of address depends to some extent on our efforts to plead the Mercy of God for them.
Even if there was a period of time when God would not ‘allow’ my prayers for Betty, it did not mean He held up His hand against others’. Every Mass we offer up, every sacrifice for the Holy Souls, every prayer even by stranger-hearts, goes towards a common trust for these Souls, to be released when willed by God, to secure a new home for a soul.
Happy though she was, I sense Betty still has some way to go. Heaven is not her new address yet, for I’ve seen souls in heaven, as well those about to leave the fires of anguish forever. They are clothed differently.
And they carry with them no boxes, marked with their name, of sins yet to be fully expiated.