I remember well, when I was not attached to a particular faith tradition, when I was in essence denomination-less, church-less, yet still filled with a faith in God and the afterlife, how concerned I was with the notion that should I meet an untimely end, how there'd be a void, a hole if you will, as to the funeral and burial, as to the means by which my loved ones would say their goodbyes. It was disconcerting and, truth be known, a factor amongst numerous factors as to my motivations to link back up with a faith tradition.
Today I've read Tod Worner's beautiful piece describing the Catholic view of death, and I am even more pleased, more satisfied, about my re-embrace of the faith:
Before I became Catholic several years ago, I had little exposure to Catholic funerals. As I have grown close to aging patients and walked with them in their last days, I have had the deep honor and privilege of attending a few such services and have found them profoundly moving and ennobling. I have been stirred to sadness, inspiration and reassurance by the deeply reverent, yet wonderfully human experience of celebrating the life and entrusting the soul of a friend to God. After having this experience, it was hard to resist learning more about the Catholic process of remembering and burying the dead. And thanks to Dick, his wife Sharon and their adult children Vince, Anne, Mary, Cathy and Julie, I have been forever changed by what I experienced.
There are three parts to what is called the Catholic Order of Christian Funerals. As my priest would describe it, it is one prayer with three parts: the Vigil, the Funeral Mass, & the Committal. For the sake of this piece, I would like to alter the names to better fit what I saw or heard: Keeping Watch, Nourishment, & Pilgrimage. It was holy and beautiful to behold.
I strongly urge the reading of the whole thing, particularly if, like me, you've reached an age when the thought of death becomes a tad more frequent and recurring.
The circumstances surrounding Dick's death in Tod's piece, the descriptions detailing the meaning of each of the three parts of the funeral, and the manner in which the family handled the entire thing, a handling that was clearly an outgrowth of their faith, is indeed holy and beautiful to behold.
Seriously, read it all.
We should all die as gracefully and as meaningfully.
I thank Tod for giving me yet another reason why I long for all in my immediate family to fully embrace the Catholic faith and to mine the richness and beauty I'm finding there.