Finding a funeral's beauty

By  Jessica Cyr, Youth Speak News
  • June 22, 2009
Recently, I was able to interview a family that was donating a large amount of money to a school in memory of their teenage son who died in a terrible car wreck in February. Tears came to the eyes of his father as soon as he stepped into the room to talk to me, and later, after they’d made their presentation, this couple held each other and cried in front of me and two teachers.

Though I didn’t know their son, my heart ached for them. Yet, I felt like by being there, talking about it with them and learning a little about this boy, I shared a little in their grief.

In my own life, I’ve often been faced with death and loss of either family or friends. One of my classmates passed away from a brain tumour when I was 15, which is when I began to consciously contemplate and question what death means to me.

However, in recent months, as I’ve attended a few funerals, I’ve come to realize that the more important question is what life means to me.

As I sat amidst the rows of mourners at the prayer vigil of my husband’s great-uncle a few weeks ago, it struck me that his life didn’t end the moment he died. In fact, the greatest part of his journey had only just begun — the journey home to God, our Father. Being a faithful Catholic who always sat at the front, sang the hymns loudly and a little faster than the rest of us, and who was always very welcoming to everyone who he came upon, this man likely knew that as well.

Though I was choked up throughout the prayers, sad for the family and friends of this man, I began to see the richness in our Catholic traditions through his funeral ceremony.

A lot of people don’t realize that the prayers or vigil the night before a Catholic funeral are as important as the funeral itself. It’s a beautiful time to remember that individual and to pray for the repose of their soul, as well as to be with the family and share in their grief.

Each time I listen to someone talking about a loved one who has passed away — for example, the grieving family of that teenage boy — I think of these moments and say a little prayer that I may represent the welcoming and loving embrace of Jesus through the church.

It’s important for us as we grieve for loved ones to realize that this isn’t the end. Our funeral liturgy tells us that through signs and symbols. Once, during the funeral of an elderly lady, a daily Massgoer, I was struck by the draping of the pall, a white cloth symbolizing our baptism, over her casket. I thought of the joy, wonder and awe we experience as children learning of God’s love for us, and realized that this lady’s passing was her ultimate dream, to be with her Lord.

Though it’s painful to lose someone we love, it’s beautiful to remember the words of Jesus to the apostles,

“I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3).

(Cyr, 23, studies communications at Mount Royal College in Calgary.)

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