The other day while driving, I caught the tail end of a story on NPR about a website that can help you find out whether anyone has ever died in your house. The gentleman being interviewed basically said that this is valuable information to have, especially before buying a house because no one wants to buy a house that someone has died in!
I thought this was kind of silly. If you live in an older house, it’s kind of a given, right? I think the bigger issue here is secular society’s refusal to face mortality. Everyone is scared of aging. Physical suffering is seen as the worst evil, because suffering points to one thing… that thing we’re all scared of. Dying. So why would anyone want to be reminded of death in their own home? It’s unheard of! Homes are for living in! None of this terrible dying stuff.
Isn’t it funny that a secular mentality that refuses to admit the reality of suffering and death and embraces material goods, health, good looks, food… this mentality often leads to fear and profound sadness when reality comes knocking? Meanwhile, as Catholics, we’re called to face there reality of sin, of mortality, and of death. That seems like such a downer, right? But it’s not! Facing the reality of mortality allows us to celebrate the blessings of life all the more!
Dave and I are less than a week away from officially buying our house. And we know for a fact that at least two people have died in this house (probably more). And we also know that at least one person (probably more) was born in this house.
When we moved here two years ago, we were greeted by our neighbors and landlords, Mr and Mrs. A. Mr. A was a really intense and rather nosy landlord. It was kind of overwhelming at first when we first moved, because he would knock on the door several times a day to bring some minor issue to our attention. But it wasn’t long before we realized that Mr. A just took enormous pride in his house. He was born in the house 80 years before. He grew up here, brought his bride Mrs. A home here and they raised their two kids here. He lived on one side and his parents lived on the other side. Eventually, his son and his son’s wife and little daughter lived on the grandparent’s side (our side). Mr. A took meticulous care of the outside of the house and tended to all of repairs himself. Mrs. A was the most fastidious homemaker I had ever seen. She was up at the crack of dawn and she had finished all of her housework by 8 am. Her place always sparkled!
Mr. A left us very suddenly right before Christmas, only 5 months after we moved in. He had been outside cleaning the gutters and he collapsed with a major heart attack. As shocking and sudden as his death was, it was definitely the way he would have wanted to leave the earth. He was doing what he loved; taking care of the house.
Mrs. A was so sad and depressed about Mr. A’s death. She had always taken such good care of Mr. A and his house, and he had taken care of everything else. She didn’t know what to do without him. Her two grown children rallied around her and her grandkids were always here to cheer her, but her heart was elsewhere. Only 10 months after Mr. A’s death, Mrs. A was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and only a few weeks later (exactly a year ago) Mrs. A went to join Mr. A. She had been in the hospital for most of October, but she was able to come home with hospice care right before she died.
I have never felt spooked thinking of Mr. and Mrs. A living and dying in this house. They were wonderful people and they lived full lives here. In fact, I feel grateful for having known the people who owned the house we’re about to buy. I truly feel like it’s a benediction on our family. I will forever be inspired by Mrs. A’s dedication to the vocation of wife, mother and homemaker. And I know that Dave will always think of Mr A and his obsessive care and attention he lavished on this house.
Listening to that NPR story and thinking of our own house reminded me of a quote from Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery:
I’m so glad our house has been consecrated by a birth and death. I don’t know about a wedding, but there have definitely been brides here and families started. This is the house that we brought our baby back to, so it will always be so special to us.
On this All Souls Day, I’m thinking with gratitude about the family and friends who have gone before us, who have consecrated our lives and our homes with their presence. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.