Thursday, February 13, 2014
February 13, 2014
My very first post -this is very intimidating. There is an expectation of greatness which I am sure is completely self-imposed. In the past, this thought has hindered me from getting started, but not today. There will probably not be greatness today, but there will be a beginning and I can only grow from there.
My uncle died last week. Although he has battled Parkinson’s for some years now, the call surprised me. I could hear in my mother’s voice that the world had just experienced true loss. I was waiting to hear that my grandmother had passed. It is a call I am semi-consciously waiting for almost every day, especially since my grandfather passed a year and a half ago. Nonna has Alzheimer’s but perhaps a better description would be that Alzheimer’s has her. This disease has taken her and imprisoned her in a cell that while familiar is completely impenetrable. She is there but inaccessible. Alzheimer’s has changed my life and I am sure it’s infiltration will provide plenty of reflections, but those are for another day. Today, it was my uncle. He had died in his sleep.
My heart was heavy and my words were few. Immediately my heart longed to be with my cousins who lost their father and their hero, their children who would never really know their “Nonno”, and his wife who lost her best friend. In the days after people would try to offer words of encouragement and I too tried to do the same. However, the truth is, the world lost someone extraordinarily special and no words could compensate for that.
The funeral came and I was thankful to be there with my mom and my sister. As soon as we walked up the steps of St. Peter’s church memories of childhood flooded over me. This place reminded me of him. I could almost hear the walls whisper his name. We entered the doors and were greeted with an Italian rendition of Hallelujah. The melody hung in the air and as words clung to my soul. We sat in the pew behind childhood friends and waited in expectation as the family said their final good-byes in a funeral home not far away. Brief, hushed conversations interjected the uncomfortable silences that filled the sanctuary. The family arrived later than expected and left me wondering how hard it must be to say a final good-bye and to close a coffin. Perhaps we think we can put off the inevitable?
They walked in, huddled together, tear-streaked and grief-stricken. The service was filled with scripture, music and stories. The priest shared a personal and moving eulogy which was further evidence of my uncle’s gracious character. Tears glistened in the eyes of each person present. Once the priest finished speaking, my three cousins proceeded arm-in-arm to the front of the sanctuary. Together they shared their sadness and their loss, but also their beautiful memories and the legacy their father had left behind.
The tears that had been rolling down my cheeks were now like rushing waters and suddenly I could hear a groaning begin to internalize. I tried to control the sounds from surfacing, but it did not take me long to realize I was powerless. The heaviness engulfed me with moans and groans that were not my own. They came from a depth deep inside and made me aware that I was not alone in my sadness. Romans 8:26 came to mind,
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
While knowing what he was about to do, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus overcome with sorrow for his friends. Similarly, the Holy Spirit was interceding for me and shared in my grief. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness. (Hebrew 4:15)
What a beautiful assurance to know we are not alone, Jesus Christ has sent us the Counselor to be with us, plead for us and comfort us. I no longer tried to resist the sounds, but allowed them to engulf me, knowing my grief was heard, and seen and shared.
The mass ended and we left in silence, but I am so thankful that the day did not end there. We all went to my uncle’s favorite restaurant. The place was filled with memories and laughter, family and friends. We spent hours sharing stories and celebrating his life. Our mourning turned to gladness as we remembered a life well-lived.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.