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Monday, February 26, 2018

Mom's Funeral Homily

You can tell that it is a good sign when the funeral readings for a full-blooded Italian begins with a celebration of rich juicy foods and choice fine wines. My siblings did well in selecting today’s readings and thereby honoring my mother’s Italian heritage. I’m sure there are loads pepperoni, capicola, salami, pizzelles, but not pasta fagiola. She could never understand combining beans with pasta. And she is certainly enjoying a heavenly banquet with her Ma and Pa, with her firstborn, Dawn Mari, and her sister, Betty, and many other loved ones, and this time she does not have to do any of the cooking.
            But the more important part of the readings is that Connie is with the One who wipes away all tears, the One who destroys the pain of death. She is with Our God who sets all things aright. And Connie waited for him, He sought her ought and she responded openly, Connie came to know him well, She came to know his rich, juicy, overflowing mercy and love, and she accepted the salvation God extended to her. And the Lord settled her soul as she knew she was one of his cherished, beloved ones.
            She beheld in life the mystery that St. Paul talks about in First Corinthians. We will not all die, but we will be changed. The Lord changed her so beautifully, gently, as they grew closer together in her last years, and she came to know how precious she was to the Lord, who validated her, affirmed her, and thanked her for all the good she did in her life.
            We siblings have always accounted our mother’s greatest sacrificial act in life was caring for her first-born, Dawn Mari, who was a special needs child. While Connie always measured out her parental love for each of us without partiality, Dawn Mari always needed the most specialized care a mother could provide. Dawn Mari was simply lovable and brought us all joy, even amidst the hardships, but my mother’s love for her was the type of unconditional love that we know God gives us. God will never be separated from us. We will never be out of God’s sight. God will always be extending a gentle hand to us  and hoping that we reach back for it in our time of need. Our mother cared for our sister similarly to the way God cares for us – with an unbroken bond of admiration and wonder, always joyful that we turn back to the one who loves us and smiles in gratitude.
            Dawn Mari, was a large part, but was not the complete story of Connie’s life, and I know she is happy with the Gospel selected, mainly because there is finally a large house with many dwelling places. No more will two parents, eight children, three dogs, five cats, and many other pets have to be squished into a tiny abode. Just as there were many rooms in her house during her life, there’s a special place for each of us in God’s house. She will continue to make certain that we are provided for uniquely and with her customary special attention, but most importantly, she will have her own space where she can rest and be cared for by the Lord. As children, we seldom saw her eat, we almost never saw her sleep, we never saw her take rest, and she was always providing for her family that sometimes placed great demands on her. God will repay her for her tireless, selfless, sacrifice of her life for her children and their loved ones. This moment is her time to be fully embraced by the Lord. It is her time to receive the care she lavished upon her loved ones.
            We have many stories we want to share about our mother, and we hope to share with you these essential parts of our lives in due time. In her later years, we learned so much about her parents, her friendship with her sisters and the Italian side of our family, her pride in serving in the Air Force, the toils and strains of her working life, the fears and regrets she made as a parent, the movies and songs that inspired her, and the fond memories that made her feel honored, but today is about her story of faith, and about what God is doing with her and for her. As the readings tell us, we cannot linger in sadness, we cannot live in grief. Mom does not want us to do so; God will lead us towards rejoicing.
            The Isaiah reading says: “The Lord will wipe away the tears for all faces.” This God has come for Connie, and God is tenderly embracing her and saying, “Welcome home, my dear one, the one with the most beautiful face. Thank you for sharing so much of your love on earth.” St. Paul says, “Death has no sting. Death has been broken and God’s love has the power to bind us together even through mortal death – because those who have died are alive to God and are alive to us. Everything is changed. Therefore, let us rejoice in this victory.” Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ. And the Gospel from John reassures us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Just Believe and everything will be O.K. You are welcome in this house. You are welcome to this feast that has rich, juicy food and choice wines. This is a time of celebration for our God has come for us.”
            Dara, Rich, Dave, Diane, Sharon, Erica. Mom does not want you to be sad for her. She will continue to care for you more nearly, more perfectly, than you can imagine.
            Sometimes, we question and doubt, just as Connie did, just as Thomas and the other disciples did when they asked, “Where are you going? We do not know the way.” Jesus says to us: Don’t worry about the destination, just get on the train and take a seat. Connie was able to do that. During this past year, she talked about being afraid because she was on a train and she did not have a ticket or know the destination. The train was moving steadily and she felt alone and she was afraid the conductor would come to ask for her ticket. She had no money for one. I simply reassured her that I knew the train conductor well and I trusted him completely. He already paid for her ticket, and she could buy any snack, any food, anything she wanted on that train, and he would stay close to her and look after her. He would come by for short conversations to remove her fear and he would let her know when it was time to get off the train. He was the One who knew the way. He was the one to give life and to speak the truth. Connie learned to trust him. She learned Christ was the conductor, and he kept feeding her and healing her and leading her home. On Thursday, the train arrived at her destination and she is led by Christ to his Father’s mansion where Dawn Mari eagerly awaits, where her Ma and Pa kiss her all over, where all her loved ones say, “Welcome home, dear friend. You did well. Come live in the happiness long promised for you.”

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