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  • Writer's picturePatty Breen

Changed, Not Ended

When my Dad died almost three years ago in January 2021, there were many moments of comfort: the meals people made for my mom as she continued working, numerous cards and prayers, family members and friends who came to dad’s hospice window to visit and say goodbye. While the death of a loved one is painful, there still can be found sweet moments of comfort amid the grief.

By this age in my life (I am 38), I have been to many funerals over my life: grandparents, a young person from my youth group, family members. I was no stranger to the Catholic funeral Mass. And yet, when it came time to bury my dad - it was if the traditions, words, images, and hymns used in the Catholic Church were a completely whole new experience for me.

Before dad died, I was grateful to have the “final” conversations with him: things he would want me to know from him, what was he most proud of in me as his daughter, was he afraid to die?, and even, forgiving him in my heart for ways I experienced a lack from his fatherhood in my life.

One day, it was just him and I at my parents’ house. His voice was getting weaker and you’d have to get very close to understand his words. Dad started telling me about his favorite part of the funeral Mass - which, not gonna lie, I found odd as he had already prepared for his own.

“Changed, not ended,” he told me, “That life is changed, not ended.” This comes from the beginning of the Rite of Christian Burial (used in the Catholic Funeral Mass): Indeed for your faithful people, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made safely for them in Heaven.

Dad was a deacon and had prayed those words many, many times at funerals he helped preside over. He had preached on these words - and now, at the end of his own earthly life, he was getting to live them in a very real and new way. This conversation caught me very much off guard. And when at his own funeral Mass a few months later, I cherished the comforting hope of those words - life has changed, not ended.

Today, All Souls’ Day, we remember the lives of all of our departed loved ones. We celebrate their lives, cherish memories we carry in our hearts, and with great hope, we entrust their soul to God - knowing the Divine perspective is so much more loving and merciful than any of us could imagine.

This day is dedicated and begins an entire month of praying for the dead. We pray for the souls of those we love and hold tight to that hope of being reunited again someday with them.

Throughout this month of November, consider your own loved ones who have passed on. What can you do in your own way to honor their memory and impact in your life? How might you celebrate their continued presence in your life?

And always, always hold tight to that promise: life has changed not ended.

The relationship with those you love and miss has not ended, it just looks different for a time.


When not working in healthcare or writing, you can find Patty getting stronger at CrossFit, reading good books, and loving on her godchildren, niece, and nephew. She loves deep conversations at the intersection of faith, culture and ministry and using the art of storytelling to connect to people's hearts. Follow her Instagram here.

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