Reflecting on death on Ash Wednesday I found myself telling my small group about all the losses I’ve faced: my niece Anna died at 16 in a car crash, a year and a half later my Mom died, a few years later my sister Christeen died, and a few years after that my Dad joined them.

Years of living without these loved ones has taught me that my longing for them in their absence is itself a way to connect with the love we shared.

In my Henri Nouwen devotional for today I read: “The mystery of God’s presence…can be touched only by a deep awareness of his absence.  It is in the center of our longing for the absent God that we discover his footprints, and realize that our desire to love God is born out of the love with which he has touched us.  In the patient waiting for the loved one, we discover how much he has filled our lives already.”

The love that satisfies us in our deepest emptiness can’t be stolen by death.  That love endures…forever.  It isn’t just a human love, though we glimpse it in our human loves. It is a love bigger than life and death.

When I long for God, in what feels like an absence, or for the living presence of my loved ones, I try to remember that the feelings of sadness and longing are themselves evidence of the great love with which I have been loved.