Dying At An Old Age Is Still Dying
As I grow older I recognize that being part of the Catholic religion means more than going to Mass on Sunday
I'm stuck here in Kroger parking lot waiting for a massive thunderstorm to pass so I can run in and buy stuff for dinner. So I have to pass the time doing something.
I'm sharing yesterday with all of you....well maybe just a portion of yesterday. I went to a funeral Mass yesterday. The wife of a relative of my husband had passed away. She was 89. So you would think, as many people do, that she had lived a long life and it was her time and that loved ones could accept her death and just move along.
If you felt that way, you would be wrong. Mass was scheduled to start at 10:30 and I arrived at 10:35....annoyed with myself because I drove past the church two times. As I walked into the vestibule, I became aware that family members were in back of the church saying one last goodbye to their mother/grandmother/wife before the casket was closed and before they began the processional up the aisle to the front of the church.
I picked up a "program" for the service and quickly glanced over the music choices (all favorites of mine) and readings and realized as I was reading how much love and caring went into this service. This woman was very much loved and just because she was 89 didnt mean that her loved ones were easily accepting of her death.
The first hymn Here I Am Lord began as the casket and family began their walk up the aisle and then I took my seat in the last pew. Even when that hymn is played at regular Mass on Sunday, I cry. So no surprise that tears began flowing as I tried to sing it.
I didn't know Elaine well. But as a brand new bride, almost 44 years ago, she offered me advice and I've never forgotten it or her and her kindness to me. So when I read her obituary I knew that I wanted to pay my respects.
I was struck by the incredible love this family had for her. One by one her grandchildren went up to the podium to offer intercessions and one by one they broke down and cried. Their words, halting and sometimes hard to understand thru their tears, nonetheless showed their love, respect and devotion for their grandmother.
It was obvious to anyone at that Mass that Elaine's death would leave a huge hole in this family.
There was a reading from 1 Corinthians..... Love is patient. Love is kind. I cannot think of a more perfect reading to send someone so well loved to her final resting place.
The words of the priest, who knew Paul and Elaine very well, were touching and felt straight from the heart of a man, not just a priest, who was saying goodbye to a good friend. He talked of how Paul and Elaine went to sleep holding hands every night and in her other hand, Elaine held her rosary.
Paul and Elaine were married for 72 years. Imagine that! And he was her caregiver right up until the day she died. At 92, I am told his tender and loving care even continued when she was hospitalized. In our shabby world of quickie marriages and even quicker divorces, I am impressed and touched by the life these two people shared and the devotion they had for each other.
Elaine was devoted to the Blessed Virgin and prayed the Hail Mary in times of pain. The Offertory hymn was one any old school Catholic will recognize as one we always sang at May Crowning.....On This Day O Beautiful Mother. Again, as before, I cried thru the words.
The Mass ended with yet another old Catholic hymn which you hardly hear anymore.... Holy God We Praise Thy Name.
For sure this was a beautiful Mass honoring a wonderful woman and the legacy of love she left behind was evident in every song, every reading and every tear that was shed.
But it was also a reaffirmation of the strength and faith of the Catholic religion which gave Elaine and Paul 72 years of life together and a true realization that death is only one more stop on the road to eternal life when we are all reunited with those we have loved.
I felt blessed to have been a small part of it.