By Amber Kinloch
February 17, 2023.
My mom and I arrived home from Adoration to police cars parked in front of our house and earth-shattering news—my dad had died. He was in apparent good health with no known pre-existing medical conditions. He collapsed alone in our basement, killed, likely, by a blood clot or some issue with his heart. He was only sixty.
In an instant, my family’s world was ripped apart. We and a multitude of others were left stunned and grief-stricken. And yet in the midst of all the heart-breaking bustle that followed, I became gripped by a conviction: The time was right.
How Can That Be?
It sounds mad. Everyone we spoke with felt that my dad’s death was unjust. He had died far too young. Why him? He was a father and a (young) grandfather, laboring full-time at two home-based businesses, tending to a house and cars, and helping neighbors out. So many people counted on him for support. And then, without warning, he was gone.
Why him? My dad was, in people’s eyes, “a good man”. Why did God take him so soon and suddenly? How was that just?
I cannot answer that question fully, of course. Yet my conviction remains: The time was right. Within a few days, my family and I began to see why that conviction was appropriate.
The first thing we perceived was how externally well-prepared we were for this event. The taxes were done. (My dad always put off doing the taxes in prior years.) Our fridge and freezer were stocked with ready-to-eat meals. Just the day before, we’d made a day-trip to my paternal grandma’s to visit with her. God had given us little graces in preparation for the moment, without our even knowing.
We were also interiorly prepared. For my own part, I remember struggling with depression several years back. It led me to think about death a lot, a topic so many people don’t think about. At first, it was something that made me cringe given my fragile state. As time passed, however, and my mental health improved, I began to see death as a gift, the end to this battle that is life, a time when we finally can lay down our weapons and rest in God’s Hands. As a result, though my dad’s death was a major shock, the reality of death itself was not something foreign or hostile to me.
I thought, too, of how special my relationship with my dad was. I’d been conscious for the past year or two of how much I loved him. Our bond was so deep and unique that I felt I’d never leave his side for another man (i.e., a husband.) Now he’s gone and my heart is “free”. Likewise, I am growing so much since now I can no longer just lean on Dad for things. And while the growth is challenging, I’ve been surprised by the realization that I can handle it with the help of God’s grace.
I wonder if this is why Joseph died before Jesus’ public ministry. Might his presence have served as an obstacle to Jesus and Mary growing fully into the people God desired them to be if he’d remained to care for them?
The Rose Blooms
“God picks the flower when it’s at its most perfect.” (An anonymous priest)
This quote both comforts me and moves me to contemplate how God works in different people’s lives. My Dad was raised Methodist. He had a solid moral compass and seemed to think more like a Catholic as the years passed, but he never converted or seemed even close to joining the Church.
Still, I possess a strong confidence that God has my dad in His care. I do not presume that my dad is in Heaven, yet I have this faith that God took him at his best moment and judged him mercifully.
Since his death, we’ve received a surge of Mass cards not to mention countless promises of prayers for his soul. So many graces are pouring in, graces that God can apply as needed not just now, but also backwards in time. God, after all, is not bound by time. Everything is present to Him. Hence why our prayers are always of benefit to souls and why we never give up praying or despair regarding even the worst of souls.
And then there are the many people touched by my dad’s death. Among these, there are souls who appear to be undergoing some sort of conversion as a result of this event. It is wonderful and mysterious. How is this? Dad never converted to Catholicism and nonetheless here are others being touched by his example and influence. It shows that anyone can be God’s instrument.
Hope in God
“Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld” (Revelations 1:17-18).
My dad’s death has changed the lives of myself, my family, and others forever. But it is not a tragedy for those who believe. As Preface I for Masses of the Dead puts it, “life is changed not ended.”
Hope in God. Trust Him. Praise Him. Nothing that happens is arbitrary. In everything, even death, He is at work for the good.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.