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When folks die young, there is often something special attached to it.

It's almost hard to define. Can we find joy in it?

Unlikely as it seems, we can.

Their lives, often, are filled with the miraculous. Their missions are a mystery!

Yet, missions they had (as do we all).

Before they passed on, often unexpectedly, there may have been unusual words or actions or signs connected to their deaths and noted perhaps only in retrospect. Pictures of them seem to have unusual lights. There may be what seems like an aura about them. In the case of a Louisiana girl, it was what her mother saw as a holy image in her eyes. A photograph of her also showed what seemed like a luminous dove across her neck. In other cases, such youngsters make references to the possibility of dying in the near future; relate unusual dreams; or are especially warm and close and consoling to relatives (as if knowing their time is short). Often, their words of consolation make sense only after.  

There are also manifestations subsequent to their dying.

These little signs are often by way of objects left in a certain place or pictures that drop out of an album or finding feathers and coins where coins and feathers shouldn't be, at pointed moments. Through their deaths they teach deepest love. This is love that consoles but also (as deepest love does) challenges and purges.

It could be finding their Scapulars.

One thing is for certain: whatever phenomena may or may not be attendant to the dead, we must balance this in such a way that we are not overly attached to the deceased -- and certainly cautious not to invoke them (which can veer toward necromancy). The best approach is simply praying for those on the other side. During Lent the veil is thin.

If God allows them to manifest, so be it. (We then test the spirits.)

We spoke recently to a woman who lost a young son to leukemia forty-one years ago. Soon after his death, his image manifested in a 12-by-16-inch picture of the Sacred Heart she received from a local church group after she made a donation (it was from Hales Corner, Wisconsin, presumably the seminary there). She had prayed, in front of the image, for reassurance that her son was alright (others too have claimed to see deceased loved ones in the image; 15,000 have visited her home over the years). Years back, we spent time praying at bedside for a little Massachusetts girl who fell into a coma lasting many years (since deceased) after a pool accident. Her grandmother told us that when the girl was very young, she simply seemed different than others her age, with an ephemeral nature about her, nearly like she would suddenly be a room when she should have taken longer to get there from where she had been. There seemed to be a nearly ethereal aspect to her.

In Austin, Texas, is Rose Laumbach Monreal, who went through the excruciating sorrow of losing her 18-year-old son (Steven) in a car accident on October 10, 2002.

"A couple incidents stand out in my mind," she wrote in a book called The Shattered Heart. "Incidents that happened before I saw my son for the very last time and that now, looking back, stood as signs for what was to come. One day he did not want to eat dinner. I asked him why. He looked straight at me in the eye and said, 'Mom it's not the bread of this earth that I need to eat.' I knew he was speaking of the bread of Heaven for we spoke of this often. Another incident happened one night when he could not sleep. I told him to lie down and try to get some sleep. He replied, 'Mom, don't worry; I'll get enough sleep when I die.' He also once said to my sister Christina: 'We live, we die, and we serve, simple as that.' It's as if saying he was born to live for only a short time here on earth and he would become dust but then would live on in eternity serving and praising the Lord. He would often say 'I have Jesus in my heart' and he would touch his heart over and over with his fist as he said it."

After his death Rose had a dream of sitting on a bench near what was kind of like a waiting station that resembled an old train depot. "As I looked to the horizon, I saw a figure appear. As it got closer, I realized it was Steven, my beloved son. He came running to me. We embraced. He had the biggest smile on his face. He looked radiant. As he approached me, I reached out and realized I could actually touch him. I remember we hugged and kissed each other. It seemed to go on and on. We laughed and just were so happy to see each other. I touched his hair. He was so happy. It's as if he glowed."

There is that luminosity.

Hard as it is to lose young ones, or for that matter anyone, God has His Plans. We all can sense the grief every time we see those roadside crosses or flowers where a person had met his or her fate in a way that was unexpected...

From the viewpoint of eternity, however, there are no earthly traumas. Sorrow gives way to joy -- a joy that swallows even the most acute sadness.

Said one army veteran and Baptist banker named Marvin J. Besteman from Michigan who had a glimpse of the other side -- an alleged vision of Heaven -- during a severe heart attack (and who himself had lost a young child years before), "There were little ones moving around, wiggling in their spots (in a line near an entrance) like children do. They all had big smiles on their faces. It's terribly sad, I know, to think about children dying, and of course these precious kids had died or they wouldn't have been in that line. Their loved ones were experiencing the heartrending loss of a child -- perhaps the worst and deepest loss anyone can ever experience. I wish I didn't know how awful that is, but I do. So what I'm about to tell you is said from a heart that has felt the wretched loss of a child. I don't share this piece lightly.

"But I promise you, dear ones, those children are delighted to be in that place. Their eyes were shining with life and pleasure, just like everyone else waiting for their turn through the huge doorway," which he described as towering up into a mist and sparkling with unearthly light.   

[resources: After Life]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Virginia]

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