DS: I was six years old when I experienced death for the first time. My cousin, Ruben, decided to go on a midnite trip with friends to west Texas. These guys had just graduated from highschool, and were relishing their new found freedom. I can imagine that the guys set out with a tank filled with gas, an 8 track playing Boston, a few drinks under the belt, and not a care in the world. They would be getting to Lubbock around 10 in the morning if they didn't stop. They didn't plan on stopping.
The monotony of the night took its toll. Soon, all passengers were asleep. Ruben was laying out sprawled in the back seat of the '70 chevy nova. Unfortunately, without anyone to distract him and keep him awake, the teenage driver fell asleep at the wheel. The Nova smashed into the concrete wall of an overpass going 90 mph. Ruben was killed instantly, as his head was nearest to the side that smashed against the wall. The others suffered major injuries---one of the passengers became trapped in the rubble of the crashed car and it took emergency crews more than 3 hours to get him out. He wound up losing a limb and the side of his face.
I remember the effect this had on my aunt and uncle, my mom and my cousins. But it hadn't had any effect on me. I remember going to the funeral home and playing amongst the different parlors. I found it all so much fun. When it was time to settle down and pay my respects, my mom took me to the closed casket, and I looked intently at the picture of Ruben placed over it. I didnt' quite understand why I needed to pray for him. He was dead. At that moment, all I could remember was the way he teased me a lot and made me cry. I told my mom later, "Ruben was mean to me." My mom told me this is why I needed to pray for him. She went on to teach me about Purgatory, and how sinners go there to be purified, because a person with sins cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. She told me, "I just hope he was in the state of grace...because if he wasn't..." and she stopped abruptly and wept...I cried a little, seeing how much pain my mother was in. I think it was at this moment that a fear gripped me, that someday I would lose my mother. Life wasn't forever. I started praying to God that he would keep my mom here for a long long long long time...
The month of November is reserved as a time to remember those we have lost. It is a time to remember not only the Saints who have reached the glory of Heaven, but those poor sinners who are still in Purgatory, going through the purification of their souls in order to get into the gates of Paradise. I believe it is very important that the Church reminds us of this, because too often these days, we Catholics attend funerals and never hear about it. Instead, we're already canonizing the deceased, saying, "Well, he's in a much better place now." No he isn't. He's most probably in Purgatory and needs Masses offered up for him and ceaseless prayers!