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Remembering the Dead

One last Rahner quote, this time from the chapter, “God of the Living”:

I should like to remember the dead to You, O Lord, all those who once belonged to me and have now left me…I see my life as a long highway filled by a column of marching men. Every moment someone breaks out of the line and goes off silently, without a word or wave of farewell, to be swiftly enwrapped in the darkness of the night stretching out on both sides of the road. The number of marchers gets steadily smaller and smaller, for the new men coming up to fill the ranks are really not marching in my column at all.

True, there are many others who travel the same road, but only a few are traveling with me…the others are mere companions of the road, who happen to be going the same way as I. Indeed there are many of them, and we all exchange greetings and help each other along. But the true procession of my life consists only of those bound together by real love, and this column grows ever shorter and more quiet, until one day I myself will have to break off from the line of march and leave without a word or wave of farewell, never more to return.

That’s why my heart is now with them, with my loved ones who have taken their leave of me. There is no substitute for them; there are not others who can fill the vacancy when one of those whom I have really loved suddenly and unexpectedly departs and is with me no more. In true love no one can replace another, for true love loves the other person in that depth where he is uniquely and irrreplaceably himself. And thus, as death has trodden roughly through my life, every one of the departed has taken a piece of my heart with him, and often enough my whole heart.

A strange thing happens to the man who really loves, for even before his own death his life becomes a life with the dead. Could a true lover ever forget his dead? When one has really loved, his forgetting is only apparent: he only seems to get over his grief. The quiet and composure he gradually regains are not a sign that things are as they were before, but a proof that his grief is ultimate and definitive. It shows that a piece of his own heart has really died and is not with the living dead.

Encounters with Silence, 53-55

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