May the martyrs come to welcome you;
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.
I have celebrated nearly 300 funerals during the course of my priesthood. Long ago I left my emotions behind to professionally serve the families and community during difficult trials. I am not alone in this. I know many bereavement ministers, and funeral directors who do the same.
Today was different. I celebrated Mass and graveside service for a young mother of three who fought a good fight against cancer. During the course of her illness, our parish community was there to help. Funds were gathered to assist the family as medical expenses rose to an astonishing number. A funeral home and cemetery worked with us to provide a dignified farewell. We prayed, we sang, we cried as we said our goodbyes.
The sight of the three little ones, aged 7, 8, and 9, placing flowers on their mother's casket was almost too much to bear. Our hearts broke at that moment. I looked around to see everyone's teary eyes (the funeral director and cemetery workers included.) The little boy seemed so brave as he held his sister's hands. We commended the soul of the faithful departed into the arms of our loving God. He commended us the care of these little ones.
The simple casket was lowered into the ground. Our leave-taking was complete. Or was it? I will remember this particular funeral for years to come. I will probably preach about it in future years. I have been changed by the sight of those three.
And may the perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul
and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.