There was once a mother of five children whose husband died when the youngest was only a toddler. She was a very emotionally and spiritually strong woman who worked tirelessly to provide for her family; ensuring they were well fed, educated and cared for.
The eldest of her daughters went on to marry and have four children of her own. One of the children, a daughter, grew especially close to her strong, courageous grandmother. From early childhood until age sixteen, this daughter spent every weekend with her beloved grandmother. Her grandmother would read stories to her, take her shopping, play board games and include her in the cooking and cleaning of the house. Yes, even mundane chores were a pleasure when undertaken with her grandmother! The young girl noticed however, at an early age, that the only time she did not enjoy her grandmother’s full, undivided attention was when they went to Mass. There, the grandmother was utterly absorbed in the prayers. A bit irritated but curious, the young granddaughter observed what her grandmother did and said in Mass and eventually began to imitate her gestures and attentiveness. She was not sure what was going on and exactly who was so important but determined to love whom her grandmother loved and express that love as she did.
Eventually, this young girl learned about “this other person” who so captivated her grandmother. Participating in this love brought a newfound sense of joy, peace and purpose. It was this foundation that supported and steadied her when her beloved grandmother died.
As a young wife, the granddaughter looked forward to having children of her own; to give what she had received from her parents and most acutely, from her grandmother. It was quite confusing and disheartening when years passed without conceiving. Appointments with doctors became the measure of her days. Two miscarriages added dips and twists to the emotional and spiritual rollercoaster. On one magnificent day, on her way to a third, post-miscarriage procedure, the young wife received a call from her doctor instructing her not to proceed with the procedure; there was one last test that she wanted to conduct before declaring a third miscarriage. The discovery and sound of a little beating heart would forever resound in the ears and heart of this soon-to-be–mother.
This little heart developed into a lovely daughter who was nicknamed, “angel”, for her mother considered her to be a messenger of hope. While tempted towards despair during the pre-pregnancy trials, the mother always remained hopeful and, like her grandmother, open to and accepting of the will of God. For her, her young daughter was hope incarnate. At last, she could lavish upon her all the maternal love that she had known, teach her as she had been taught and daily, savor the beautiful little angel from heaven.
Four and six years later two brothers were added to the treasure trove. They also grew to adore their older sister and she, them. Naturally, they went through the normal and, not always pleasant, growing pains and experiences, but the three remained close throughout their respective adolescence and young adulthood.
To describe the grief that devastated this family when their “angel” was killed is impossible. She was 23 years old, seated in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle which collided, head on, with a large transport truck. The initial telephone call, the appearance of policemen at her door, having to tell her sons that their sister had been killed; these are memories that a mother should not frame yet, they magnified and intensified the great love that flowed between them all.
Beautiful lyrics to a popular song confirms for us that “Love never dies; love goes on beating.” It is no wonder then, that the loss continues to pulsate as well. The Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer I, used in our Funeral Rite, reminds and reassures us: “Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended.” This, I believe, is profoundly true for the deceased as well as for those who loved them; life does go on for those still living but is forever changed.
I ask that you join me in praying for my beloved daughter, Madelen, who was killed three years ago on August 5, 2011; her final commendation was 5 days later on August 10. While I know that she now rests— along with my beloved grandmother— in the loving arms of our Lord, how I do wish she were still in mine!