Happy Birthday

I first met Dave when he lost his wife. She was buried at All Souls Cemetery, and after her burial Dave approached me to ask if he could assist the cemetery in caring for its ponds. Since then, we’ve kept in touch. This past week, he called to ask permission to see if there were any spotted turtles within the cemetery. Before we said our goodbyes, Dave asked if I had a few more minutes to talk.

He started to tell me about his 70th birthday that happened a few weeks prior. Dave went to visit his wife at the cemetery. As he sat by her gravesite, he knew the only person who would have made his day special was gone from this world. Loneliness washed over him. The couple never had children, and he felt that no one else seemed to care enough to even wish him a happy birthday.

Dave is someone with an extremely kind soul. It broke my heart as I listened to this story. However, he continued.

He said he spent a few more minutes visiting his wife, telling her how much he loved and missed her, then went home still saddened by the day.

One week later, Dave was back at All Souls Cemetery to visit his wife. This time, he decided to spend some time at the pond to check on the fish he had recently placed there.  As he sat, he could see something in the distance being carried by the wind.  It looked like a balloon decoration from somewhere in the cemetery.  The balloon kept coming closer until it landed by his feet. 

When he looked down at the balloon, he couldn’t believe what he saw.  A balloon had travelled across the cemetery at the very moment that he was sitting at the edge of the cemetery pond and on it was written “Happy Birthday”.

With tears in his eyes, Dave looked up and said a silent thank you to his wife who undoubtedly had sent him a “Happy Birthday” from Heaven.

Dave’s story reminds me of the connection that continually exists between us, our loved ones, and God. I hope his story can provide some hope to anyone missing someone they love.

– Andrej Lah

Director, The Catholic Cemeteries Association

A Valentine's Day Message

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, much of the world is focused on chocolates, Valentine’s cards, and spending time with their significant other. However, there are also those for whom Valentine’s Day is a reminder of the absence of their loved one. Instead of celebrating love, they are reminded of their broken heart. I see this pain in the eyes of the widows and widowers that I’ve come to know.


Yet, in the midst of this suffering, I believe there is hope to be found.
Upon losing a loved one, it may feel as if their absence is permanent. As followers of Christ, however, we have hope that this separation is only temporary. Having hope doesn’t make the loss any less painful, but hope can make your burden a bit lighter to bear. We must accept that God calls us all home on His time, not ours. We will never know the reasoning behind God’s timing. All we can do is place our trust and hope in the Lord, and reflect on the love He calls us all to embody throughout our time here on earth.


As hard as it may be, I encourage you to celebrate love this Valentine’s Day. Remember the love you shared with your dearly departed. Reflect on the love that you still have for them. Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you.


In a world where everything seems to move too quickly, we can find comfort in knowing love is eternal.


God bless,
Andrej Lah

February 2020

Honoring Our Loved Ones This New Year

It’s hard to believe that we have already found ourselves in the year 2020. It seems that the rush of the holiday season has started to settle and the world has gone back to its typical routines. However, we at the CCA understand that the New Year may be difficult for many people, as it is a reminder that another year is starting without our dearly departed loved ones. While we carry on with our daily lives, our loved ones are no longer with us to celebrate life’s most precious moments. We may feel like the passing of time pulls us further and further away from our loved ones, but the opposite is true.


The emotional connection we make with our loved ones is something that cannot be broken by death. It is something that lives on and evolves, even after their passing. Each year is a chance for us to strengthen our emotional relationship with our loved ones, both living and deceased.


We must remember that God exists outside of time. Our departed loved ones are present in a world far beyond our comprehension. While entering the New Year may seem daunting to some of us here on earth, we can find comfort in knowing our loved ones exist free of the limits of time and are joyfully awaiting our eventual reunion with them in God’s kingdom.

May God grace you and your family with abundant blessings this New Year.

God bless,
Andrej Lah 

January 2020

He Makes All Things New

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

– Revelations 21:3-4

Many of us are familiar with Revelations 21:3-4. The phrases used and the imagery depicted have brought comfort to those who are grieving, as the passage tells of a time when suffering will be no more and the concept of death no longer has a hold on us. But there is something more to this passage that doesn’t often make it to greeting cards and memorial services…

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelations 21:1-5

Revelations 21:1-5

Looking at the passage as a whole, we are told about God’s loving promise of renewal. God doesn’t simply erase pain from the world, He actually transforms the world and makes it new. This transformative change is a necessary part in God’s plan to bring us all into communion with Him.

We are called to embrace this idea in our everyday lives. Change is often seen as something to be afraid of, and sometimes new starts are more frightening than they are comforting. This is normal and part of the human experience. However, in times when a change in our life may seem overwhelming or too much to bear (such as losing a loved one) reminding yourself that change isn’t inherently destructive can expand your outlook. Change, while painful, can also lead to greater comfort and healing moving forward.

Whether we’re entering a new year, new season, or even a new day – we are called to embrace the newness and change that God places in our lives. Change is the catalyst to something new. No day is ever the same as the last. As we embrace this concept, we can learn to appreciate each new day as it comes to us, and embrace those bad days that are bound to happen. Just like everything in life, even our worst days will end, and a new day will begin.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

What to Expect When Attending a Grief Support Group

The Catholic Cemetery Association offers a safe and welcoming environment where the bereaved can come to be present with others who understand. The hardest parts of processing grief are best dealt with by talking about what you are feeling and realizing that most of what you experience is normal and eases over time.

Here are a few of the most common things to expect when attending one of our Grief Support Groups:

Relief/Clarity

You’ll find a sense of relief or freedom in being able to be open with your feelings.  Sometimes with family or friends, we tend to want to protect others from our hurt and pain and we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience the grief. We feel we have to be strong for them or we feel that we should be further along in our grieving. This is true especially if others in your family don’t “seem” to be grieving as much as you. Attending a support group can illustrate how everyone’s grief is personal and unique, and that everyone processes grief differently. In some cases, you may find new coping skills for common grief experiences.

Companionship

Our number one goal is for you to know that you do not have to be alone in your grief. Our support groups are designed to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for you to share your grief story and share experiences with other participants. While each grief experience is different, there is strength and comfort to be found in knowing you are not alone.

Diverse grief needs

There will be other participants in the group with varying degrees of grief. Some may have recently lost their loved one, and others may be working through a loss they experienced years ago. You may encounter others in the group who handle life in general differently from you. In our groups, we respect each person’s unique way of processing grief, without judgement. There are no wrong questions or feelings because your feelings are unique to your life experiences. In fact, these differences can provide you with a greater perspective in regard to grief and the healing process.

What NOT to expect:

Professional Counseling or Therapy

Our Group Facilitators are not psychologists or therapists, but rather trained specifically to help people understand what grief is and to encourage effective group discussions. We are able to help direct people in need of deeper grief work, to local resources for obtaining one-on-one or a specific type of grief counseling (widows, infant/child loss, accidental, traumatic/violence, suicide, substance abuse death, and other types of intense grief experiences).

A Quick Fix

Processing your grief is not a quick fix. It is not reasonable to expect to be back to “normal” in six months, or even a year. It takes time and patience as you work through painful emotions and life-altering changes.  But with a good support network at your side, you will find hope to take that next courageous step toward your new normal.

Grief will never be an easy journey, especially if you are attempting to journey it alone. Come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions.

Post written by Kaleigh Rice

Content derived from interview with CCA Bereavement Coordinator, Rhonda Abrams.