Sometimes one meets a husband and wife whose love for each other is so real that other people do not see them so much as two individuals, but, rather, as one unit. It’s almost as if they have been fused together by their years of sharing with and caring for each other. To imagine one without the other is impossible.
Mr. And Mrs. Ashcroft were a couple just like that. They were short, fat and inseparable. Every day they would come to Mass in their little red car and, after Mass, would stand chatting to their friends. They would go back home and Mr. Ashcroft would work in his garden. He would also look after the garden of the widow who lived next door. I think he was actually older than Mrs. Thierens, but Mr. Ashcroft was determined that she wasn’t going to tire herself out. A perfect gentleman, he hated the thought of a woman doing hard labour!
Mr. and Mrs. Ashcroft loved each other so much that sometimes I wondered how they even managed to be apart during the many years when he had had to go to work. At least now that he had retired, they could be together all the time.
Then came the day when Mrs. Ashcroft died. Her husband still came to Mass every day, driving the same little red car. He still did the gardening for Mrs. Thierens. He spoke about his late wife as though she had been the most beautiful woman who had ever lived. Mrs. Ashcroft had been perfect in every way, according to her husband.
When I went home to visit my mother, Mr. Ashcroft would use my arrival as an excuse to visit me. One evening he came to the house with a big plastic bag that he put on the floor beside him. One by one he pulled out photographs of his wife and showed them to me. Some of the pictures had been treasured for more than 40 years. After the photos came the embroidery that Mrs. Ashcroft had done during the many years of their married life. As he showed off his wife’s handiwork, it was clear that Mr. Ashcroft was finding comfort in being able to talk about the woman he had loved so much. There were moments when he was finding it hard not to cry. It was a very sacred evening as far as I was concerned. For a short time I had been allowed to enter into a marriage that had truly been made in Heaven.
When two people love each other very much and one dies, it can feel as though the surviving partner has lost everything. Mr. Ashcroft’s whole world was centred in his wife. She was his sun, his moon and his stars. When she died, life could never again be the same. If he hadn’t had his strong faith Mr. Ashcroft’s world would have come to an end.
As Christians we are very blessed in knowing that death is not the end of everything. The only thing that makes sense of death is our belief in the Resurrection, our belief that death is only a transition. We believe that, beyond the grave is life. Death is not the end. When someone dies, that person is only a thought away, can never move further away from us than deep inside our hearts.
During the month of November, we pray for all those whom we love and who have died. We pray that God will give them the fullness of life and peace with him. Today let us also pray for those husbands and wives who have been separated by death, that God will give comfort and strength to the one left behind.
Lord, today we pray for those husbands and wives whose love is strong and true. We pray for those who have been widowed, that they will have the comfort, strength and courage needed to carry on living. Grant eternal life to those who have died. Amen