Amazing Grace

My mom’s brother passed away 8 days ago. On the day he died, we discussed the arrangements and we followed his wishes. There was not any kind of viewing or service, and he was buried within 2 days.

My mom is a Catholic and is used to a memorial mass when someone dies, as well as a grave side blessing and service. We discussed having masses read for my uncle and she thought it would be great to have one read for him the following week on August 25th, the birthday of one of their sisters who died a few years ago. For those of you that are unfamiliar with “having a mass read,” it is a tradition in Catholicism to dedicate the mass, during the consecration, to people that have passed away.

So the day after his passing, we went to a Catholic church to schedule some masses, hopefully one on the 25th. Many churches now include only one such dedication per mass, and as a result are very backlogged in scheduling these masses. Each church we went to was booked through the end of the year. My mom felt sad and frustrated that she could not arrange this. She wanted to do this for her brother, and wanted the closure she felt this ritual would give to her. She was ready to give up, and I told her that I had a good feeling about a particular church, and it was the first one that came to my mind.

My mother lives down the street from me, and this church is part of a senior community less than a mile from us. I really felt that this would work, and took her by her home on my way. I told her that I was going to go and would let her know how it turned out. She decided to go with me. We met a very kind woman that led us through the campus, eventually to the person that schedules the masses, and found that the next opening was August 25th. My mom burst into tears with joy and relief that she was able to make these arrangements and felt a sense of divine intervention.

We left there feeling very good about the day. We attended the mass this morning, carrying the intention in our hearts that this was his memorial mass – an acknowledgment that his spirit has moved on from this world. Just before the priest approached the altar to start the mass, we saw the woman that we met last week that took us to the right place on the campus. She was serving as an acolyte and announced that today was the feast of St Louis and directed our attention to a statue of him in the church. Our jaws dropped. The priest began the mass and spoke briefly of St Louis. Our eyes filled with tears and we knew that her brother was okay and we were where we were supposed to be.

I went up to the woman after mass an reminded her of our meeting last week. I thanked her again for her help and told her that this was especially meaningful to us, and that we had not known about the feast day.

I told her that my uncle’s name was Louis.

Copyright © 2008, Lisa Wagner

When someone is dying …

My Uncle Louis is dying. He would be 88 in September, though his nearly 2 year battle with colon cancer will end his life before then. He has always been a very strong man, very tenacious and optimistic. He has faced every challenge and hardship in his life with a seemingly limitless inner strength that enabled him to start anew each day, and keep moving forward.

Three weeks ago, I put him into an ambulance for the last time. I stayed with him through the night, until he was settled into his room, and it soon became clear that this would be his last trip to the hospital. The following week he was transferred to Hospice, and I didn’t think he would be there for very long. He’s been there now for 10 days, and we don’t know how he continues. Mom (he is her brother) visits him every day, as does his wife of more than 62 years. They are digging deep to find the strength to sit with him. He sleeps and does not appear to be in pain – in fact he actually seems rather peaceful, though his body is wasting away. It is hard to watch, especially for everyone who loves him … most especially for his sister and his wife.

I was thinking about him the other day, and it hit me how apparent his core belief of never giving up is being demonstrated to us at the end of his life. I started thinking about each person I have known that has passed, and in each person I considered, I saw how one of their core beliefs was shown in the last days or phase of life. In each case, an essential part of their nature was very clearly displayed in how they died.

I wonder what will be known of me when my time comes …

Copyright © 2008, Lisa Wagner