This week has been hard. My great uncle Jerry passed on Saturday, leaving my mother with a single great aunt, after having a gaggle of them plus spouses for most of her life. It has brought so much to front for me, like how much I still miss Jerry’s sister, my grandmother, even after 23 years (and most of my life) without her. My grandmother wasn’t a cuddly or spoiling grandmother, others did (and do) far more hugging and kissing, but I knew she loved all of us, and we grandkids certainly got more of her attention when there were fewer of us around. My grandfather, Poppa, outlived her by fifteen years, so though I’ve only had to live without him in my life for the past six, was far more mercurial, though mostly under the surface, and certainly more vocal in his love for each of us individually and as a group. They both adored each other, even when they disagreed (which around politics was nearly everything).
But this also brought to me how these three approached faith, which was similar but different. Staunch Roman Catholics all, with regular mass attendance, rosaries prayed, and parish life involvement, I do remember their Eucharistic celebrations differently. Jerry was the one I attended the mass with the least, since I have lived most of my life west of the Missouri River, and he raised his family in Milwaukee. Jerry always seemed joyful and grateful to be there with everyone else. His face was full of light, and he seemed to really enjoy the community aspects of greeting and worshipping with those around him. My grandmother was fairly weak by the time I was truly paying attention, so I remember her slight vanity, though mostly humility, in arriving for mass early enough to catch her breath so she could easily talk to others, and really concentrate on mass. She may have been faking it, but her attention to the mass, and utter concentration on the Eucharistic was amazing to me. Even at her sickest, she was so grateful to celebrate the commemoration of the Last Supper. My Poppa was the quietest, and sometimes the most stern, about rebuking us silently with a look, to stop squirming and to pay attention. He certainly believed the Church was for all sinners, no matter how much you made or how you had sinned, but loved his tradition of his Hour of Adoration.
So mass has been hard this week. I have cried many times, thinking of all three of them, but also the others I know with whom they have reunited in heaven. I dug out a ring from Aunt Betty yesterday, and pictured a hat given to my mother that will remind me of Aunt Peg when I finally inherit it. I picture them on picnic tables, sitting around, eating and talking, but mostly I feel their love. Their love of God and each other, which they will now celebrate for all time and all ages. I feel the power of their continued joyous prayers for our family, nudging me to better decisions and to reflect on how to give of myself more unconditionally.
So that’s where the doubt comes in. How do I continue to develop the discipline to make those sacrifices? I am old enough to know that those sacrifices always bring me closer to God and my community, but wow, can it be difficult to make those decisions in the moment. And trusting myself, even when I lack clarity, is also difficult for me. But at So i cry because I miss them, So this week, I have cried for those that are too young to really remember them when they were all together and I cried because I’m jealous that they’re together again. And I have cried from shame for not meeting the example they set forth for me, and I have cried with doubt that I ever can. But I’m also grateful for the tears of joy that have come from their continued support and prayers. Despite all the doubt, my faith tells me we will be reunited once again, in joyful prayer.