A dear and precious saint died this week, a member of the parish I had pastored for fourteen years, until my retirement in 2004. And when her son called, after telling me the news of her death, his next words were, "You know what I'm going to ask. Will you preside at her funeral?"
Now, I know this may sound peculiar (though I often find things about me do...sound peculiar, that is...especially regarding "churchy" matters), but I have always enjoyed presiding at funerals. No... "enjoy" is not the right word...I have been honored and humbled by the awesome gift and responsibility of pronouncing the words of comfort to the bereaved, of commending the dear departed into the hands of God- where he or she already fully rests. Each time I have been called upon to do this, I know that I am standing upon Holy Ground- and I am always tempted to take off my shoes and bow down. For I know that the words I say are hallowed by the God who loves us so fully, so completely, that we are each called "Beloved" by this Divine Presence.
Outside on this overcast Saturday morning, it is raining, as if the very heavens are shedding tears of sorrow. But their sorrow is not for Mary, but for those of us who remain on our earthly journey. Because the angels are surely smiling as they welcome this precious women into their midst. And somewhere, somehow, I can picture her baking her incredible pound cakes for the entire heavenly host. As I prepare for my role in leading family and friends in saying their good-byes, I can almost hear her laughter as she holds the hand of her beloved husband again and walks the paths of eternity with him. Blessings, Mary dear. We have all been blessed in having you as a part of our lives.