Last Saturday I concelebrated a funeral Mass. It was a very difficult time for all involved. Katie was only 33 years old. She left behind her husband Todd and three little girls, Natalie, Kelly and Marley Mae (7, 6 and 4). Katie's mother Lisa had worked for me in my last assignment as the parish secretary. Katie, like her mother, usually had a huge smile on display to greet whomever she met. The smile on Lisa's face was conspicuously missing. The inexpressible pain could be seen in her eyes.
No parent expects to lose a child. It is not the way that things are supposed to happen. We usually bury our parents--as sad as this may be--not the other way around. I could not even imagine the grief that Katie's parents, Lisa and Brian, were experiencing. Todd's face had just a blank stare of unbelief.
The funeral Mass congregation packed St. Joseph Church in Somers Point. I was told the viewing the night before went on for hours, with a line of people around the block. People were extremely supportive and empathetic. There are just no words appropriate for times like these. People just feel the sadness and pain.
The Catholic funeral Mass tries to bring a sense of hope to the situation. Jesus' salvific action is once again made present on the altar. We are reminded of His Resurrection from the dead. We, as believers, are told that death and the grave are not final--life is changed, not ended.
As I looked into the congregation from the altar, I saw two other mothers who had experienced the loss of their sons not too long ago. I had been pastor there at the time of both of these funerals. I knew that these mothers knew all too well what it was like to go through this pain. Somehow their slowly-healing wounds get ripped open once again. Courageously, they were there to support this newly-grieving family.
In the front pew sat the three little girls, too young to realize just how tragic this situation was for them, now and into the unforeseen future. Where's mommy? Somehow children are remarkably resilient. They looked like little angels--pure, innocent and holy. Thankfully, they had each other to hold on to as they watched their newly-born baby cousin, also there with them. The circle of life continues.
We are all reminded, at times like these, just how brief and how fragile life is. Things can change too quickly for any of us.
Personally, I don't know how I would survive without faith in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection form the dead. I know that He knew what it is like to die so young. Wasn't He also approximately 33 years old at the time of His tragic death?
I have once again seen the pain in the eyes of a grieving mother, reminiscent of what it must have been like when Mary met her Son on the road to Calvary, when she saw her Son hanging from a cross.
There really are no adequate words for such times.
Fr. Ed Namiotka