Becoming Holy

The Power of Grief

on February 15, 2013

Today, we grieve the loss of a very dear friend.  Not just me.  My family.  Our parish.  Our dear sweet friends.  They have lost a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, sister.  Just looking at all the roles this sweet woman held makes me realize the intrinsic value each life holds.  The service was particularly meaningful and would have been even had we not been involved on a personal level.  

First of all, the presider was our retired bishop, Bishop Carlos Sevilla.  He was a close friend of the family.  His gentle presence as shepherd held so much comfort.  Several priests and deacons were in attendance~this beautifully reflected the love of our faith community for this family.  The family had put together a slideshow of memories.  They were the memories that each of us loves to see~big group photos, travel photos, individual memories caught on film and set to meaningful music.  These photos were windows to the past, giving each of us a new view into the life of this beloved woman.

Attendance at the service was strong.  The parking lot was full, as was the church.  Scriptures from Jeremiah, Romans and John were read and we, as mourners, were reminded of the love of our God.  We marveled as Jeremiah was read by the daughter of our deceased friend.  She read with passion and grace and complete composure, announcing to each of us that God ” will visit you and fulfill [His} good word to you, to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  The words were encouraging, reminding us of God’s perfect plan.  In the book of Romans, we heard the beautiful words that “neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, not future things shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.”  This is one of my favorite scriptures and it so beautifully summarizes the fact that nothing separates us from Christ or from our loved ones.  Those left behind simply must await our turn to join our loved ones in the complete and perfect love of Jesus Christ.  These joy-filled readings were then completed with the Gospel from John 14.  My heart soared as I heard the words, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  We had also chosen this Gospel reading for our sweet Jennifer’s funeral 17 years ago.  These words give such hope.  Jesus loves each of us so deeply that He goes to prepare for us.  Just as we would prepare for a beloved guest.  He promises His return and His personal escort to us.  These words are why I KNOW that Jesus personally came to welcome our daughter and they are how I know He personally came to welcome our friend home.  No more suffering.  No more struggle.  Complete and total wholeness and holiness.  

The homilist, Fr. Auve, shared an incredible revelation.  He spoke of the fact that God is not limited by time and that our prayers are timeless.  I have always loved this belief.  I believe, as a mom, that I can pray for our daughter, Jennifer.  Even though I know she is with God, my prayers for her now are a timeless blessing on her earthly existence.  Today, our prayers for the friend we have lost are a blessing on her entire life and the lives of her family.  We gathered at the table of the Lord, just as the apostles had with Jesus at the Last Supper.  The timeless love of God permeated the church throughout the Mass.

A beautiful luncheon followed the funeral Mass.  Our community shared the love we have for our friend by providing a beautiful meal in celebration of her life.  Today is the first Friday of Lent and for Catholics, this means no meat.  Vegetarian soups, rolls, salads and desserts were prepared and brought with loving hands.  Person after person came with food gifts that were a love story for this woman and her family.  Story upon story was shared about the bonds of love that held us all together as a grieving community.  One mom brought a beautiful memory with her pot of soup.  She had been blessed profoundly by our deacon and his wife.  She recalled her engagement to her husband and the difficulties they encountered in trying to  access marriage prep classes.  By God’s grace, they were led to Holy Spirit Parish and were introduced to our deacon and his wife.  They were welcomed into their home, made to feel at ease and guided in the marriage classes they needed.  As she shared her story with me, her eyes were tear-filled and her gratitude to our friend was obvious.  Another young mom shared of the love and prayer support she and her husband received during her cancer treatment.  It was obvious our friend had been a lifeline during this time of illness.  This couple, too, had brought soup with their memories.  Their presence was both a tribute and a thank you.  People of all ages and walks of life gathered to honor this amazing life, so very well lived.  

So tonight, I pause and take stock.  I praise God for letting me be part of this sacred day and thank Him for the gift of this beautiful life.  I have been reminded He has a plan for each of us~one of promise and of hope.  I know nothing can separate us from Him, and  I rejoice that He has gone to prepare a place for each of us.  His promise to return and take us to Himself is one of great comfort.  Our grieving together has been a powerful force of love and belief in each of these promises.  I find myself thanking God for this faith community and this faithful family.  Words from the final song, “The Song of Farewell,”  are resounding in my heart.  “May the choirs of angels come to greet you, may they lead you to paradise.  May the Lord enfold you in His mercy.   May you find eternal life.”  Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace.  

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2 responses to “The Power of Grief

  1. Joan McCarthy says:

    Absolutely beautiful and very inspiring. Thank you.

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