"The Tibetan Book of the Dead," believed to be the work of eighth-century Buddhist master Padma Sambhava, is designed to be read to a person who has died to prepare the soul for reincarnation. In a similar vein, Msgr. Dino Lorenzetti, a retired priest from the Diocese of Buffalo, has written "Addio: See You in Heaven," which serves as a guide to prepare the living for heaven.
The 95-year-old priest and World War II veteran shares stories from his own life and friends who have lost loved ones to demonstrate a peace in the afterlife. He compares entering heaven to a baby being born into the mortal world. When we cross that threshold, we see a new world full of warmth and love that we could not have imaged before.
"I guess for those who do not have faith, death must be something like a graduation from school. It is the end, period," he writes. "But for the person of faith, death is a commencement; the beginning of a new school, new friends, new studies. It is a time pregnant with hope to be united with Him, our Blessed Mother, the choirs of angels, saints and heavenly hosts."
Throughout the book he speaks of God's plan for him. During World War II, he avoided combat by working as a stenographer for his Air Corps squadron. He picked up the skill for an office job before being drafted. His life was spared again over half a century later when he was due to fly with Father Antoine Attea, a close friend and pilot, the day Father Attea's plane inexplicably crashed on its way to pick up Msgr. Lorenzetti.
"God, I'm certain, welcomed Antoine into the heavenly kingdom and, once again, gave me a warning to always be ready," Msgr. Lorenzetti writes.
During an interview about his book, he said he feels God has spared him so that he can carry on his mission of spreading the Gospel message.
"I feel that's a fact. I think I've been spared, to not be called at that moment when other people were called, that I have further mission to accomplish and continue on in that fashion," he said. "That's why the book has meaning for everyone to read, where each person can see themselves, how God has spared them through experiences that they have had to the point where they are living in this moment, therefore maybe they have a mission too to alert themselves to this new vision and this new home that the Lord has promise to those who love Him."
The idea to write the book came after completing his first work, "The Agony of Betrayal," which told of his losing his life savings to a con man.
"I'm 95 years of age. This is going to be my next big experience in life, namely facing the adventure of the new experience and I want to face it, not with morbidity, but with happiness and joy, and with a full consciousness of what I am doing," he said.
Throughout an interview about the book, he mentions the word death only twice. Instead, he approaches the concept as an adventure, a trip to visit God, not an ending with darkness, which makes discussion of the subject palatable.
"I do feel that when you go on a trip, you have to prepare for vacation, but this time here, I'm going on a trip, but I'm not bringing any of my stuff with me. It's important as a Christian or as a priest to prepare myself for that great day," he said.
Helping him with the writing and organizing is Barbara Stoyell-Mulholland, a family friend who co-wrote "The Agony of Betrayal." Msgr. Lorenzetti would send his essays and thoughts to her, and she would sort through them and work out themes. During this time, Stoyell-Mulholland's mother died. They decided to include stories and witnesses to the deaths of loved ones. She wrote the story of her own mother passing away and interviewed other people.
The book includes discussion questions for book clubs.
"Book clubs are interested because they feel this is something that everyone is going to face," Msgr. Lorenzetti said. "They would like to discuss amongst themselves how they see this experience of death in comparison to how I see it. I find it is intriguing to many to take this realistic theology and confront themselves with that reality that we are going to go ahead and continue going on living a new life. You see the child is in the womb is so confined, he knows he is in the womb, just like I am in the womb of the earth right now and I'm confined. Someday I will be born again, and that is by death, which isn't a graduation but commencement. It's a new life. As St. Paul has said, 'No eye has ever seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.' I think it's exciting."
"Addio: See You in Heaven" is available through www.lulu.com. Proceeds will go to help the St. Vincent de Paul Society.