My father died at age 53 after suffering for almost 2 years with a brain tumor. My mother died at age 101. Within months of his death, my mother started reading the OBITS faithfully every morning. When asked “Why?’, she would reply that she was just checking to see if her name was on the list. Then she would smile and say that ‘God gave her another gift.’ when she found she was not on the list that day. At what point do we all start reading the OBITS? And why?
Recently, I have attended 3 funerals in a week and a half. One was for an elderly woman, who had been ill for some time. Another was for a man in his prime–early 60s. Another for a young man who had not had the chance to live a full life. What did they have in common beside death? They all were attended to in a full, full church in which those present had a relationship with the deceased that had meaning and the absence of this person would affect each in the church in its own special way. Is this not what God wishes for us all? Luke’s Gospel last week gives us the rich man who had an enormous harvest. His present barns could not store it all. So he declared that he would tear them down and build bigger ones to keep his riches for a future ‘good life.’ God had other ideas. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things that you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” The above filled churches were expressions of love that each had for their ‘friend.’ One begins to wonder, particularly in one’s advanced years, ‘does our stuff own us or do we own it?’ In life we need to down size often so that we may address the most important aspects of our God given life. These we need to acquire. Not bigger and better things. How would our OBIT read, if we were to write it ourselves at his moment?
At age 100 my mother said ‘I am ready to go.’ A nun spoke to my mother and said ‘that only God knew when you will go. Your room is not ready.’ My mother, never without a ready tort, responded by saying that ‘I don’t need a big room. I have had it with cleaning closets and such. I only need a simple space to lie down.’ She had 101 years to fulfill her given mission. She was not perfect as none of us are. However, she responded to every challenge. Never questioned God with ‘Why me?’ And she had many obstacles. She was never looking to satisfy herself with what she didn’t have. She gave thanks for what God did give her even in times of troubles. And if she needed more, she worked for it without complaint.
We are so blessed to be Catholics. Our paths in life are clearly drawn. Our God, the Son of the Father, came down to show us the way. His love was so great that He gave His life for us in a most horrible way. And even in death, He assured us that we will never be left alone, no matter our difficulties–especially in our difficulties. How often have we heard that God has a plan? And how often do we question God’s plan when it seems others have it easier that we do? Ours is to do and die. And some day we will know why.
By Kathy Reilly