Exactly a year ago, I was back at work for the first day since my pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome. Today I’m back at work for the first day since my mother’s funeral. Her journey through the last few weeks of her life was filled with anxiety and struggle. I had prayed for her last year in Italy. I prayed with her this year when she needed help with her rosary. We walked as much of the last road with her as we could, but in the end it was between her and God. Now she is finally at peace.
Four priests celebrated her funeral Mass, a testimony to the depth of her faith and her involvement in the day-to-day life of the church. I did the eulogy. I realized that there were things I needed to say in that context to make my own peace with her life and death. It made me realize how much a part of each other we truly are. I know it’s only the beginning of the next steps along my own journey.
I can truly appreciate how important it is to tell the stories. The family has been doing a lot of that in the past two weeks. But I also recognize how much those stories put flesh on the bones of our faith, make sense of the questions and doubts, honor the mystery and celebrate the love that binds us together. I can’t wait to see how those stories unfold over the next few months.
November is the month in which the church celebrates the “last things”—death, judgment, salvation, eternal life, the communion of saints. This is all very personal for me this year. My own experience will help me to understand and to share the message of these things going forward.
I know God works in marvelous ways. The power of the words spoken at Mom’s funeral will plant seeds of faith in all of who were gathered there, in ways we may not realize for a long time. Four generations gathered for her burial on the feast of All Saints. The visitation and Mass had taken place the night before. The committal was an intimate family gathering. The funeral director focused on the great-grandkids, who meant everything to Mom. And on the way out of the cemetery, we left roses on the graves of her parents and grandparents. In the end, it comes down to family, faith, and the love that’s at the core of both.