As he approached the end of his life Cardinal Newman wrote: “The shadows lengthen, and evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at last.
We all hope for, pray for “a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at last.”  That rest, that peace can be seen as a release from this “valley or tears,” where we are, only too often, “mourning and weeping.”

The cause of our mourning and weeping is usually some loss we experience, loss of a loved one, loss of health, loss of some valued possession.  A loss is never easy to accept.  What if that loss is seen as part of a process?  In Eastern mysticism this process is described as being “hollowed out”.  Christian asceticism speaks of “dying to self.”  In each case the goal is to be filled with something greater,  to live a new life.  For the Christian, it is a matter of becoming less and less self-centered and more and more God-centered.  That is the essence of growth in the spiritual life.  In any case the process is painful.

Hindus believe there are four stages of life, the last of which is “sanyasi.”  It is the stage of renunciation of the world, the “hollowing out”, the final stage of spiritual evolution. Christian asceticism also speaks of stages in the spiritual life: a purgative stage, in which the focus is on efforts to purge one’s self of any faults/sin; an illuminative stage in which one becomes more enlightened about things of the spirit; a unitive stage in which, through a special grace, the soul is joined more fully to God.

Whatever one’s religious orientation and belief, the final stage ends with loss of life.  That loss can be met either with vain resistance and bitterness or with quiet resignation. Here, too, we need to look to Christ as model.  After experiencing great agony in Gethsemane he simply said: “Not my will, but thine be done.”  We would do well to make those words a frequent prayer of our own.

For the Christian person of faith the moment of death is not so much an end as a beginning of a new life that will never end.  The preface of the Mass of Resurrection reminds us: “Indeed, for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not taken away, and when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”