The Beauty of Compassion
Three weeks, three funerals, three of our school families are changed forever.
A student, a sibling and a mother are no longer with us Earthside. I have learned more about death, dying, tragedy, grief, community and compassion than I thought possible. But this isn’t just fodder for the blog.
This is real. These were real lives. Real people who were loved, cherished and honored. People whose presence will always be missed.
Growing up, funerals weren’t really something our family did. I viewed death as a very distant event. It’s not a reach to say that I feared it. Shied away from it. Avoided the inevitable. What if I said, or did, the wrong thing?
Thirteen years ago this summer, a nine-year-old boy at our parish died of cancer. His funeral was the most joyous, faith-filled thing I had ever attended in my life. His sister drew the art for the program, the music was unbelievable, there was more laughter than tears and the celebration that was his funeral had a life-altering effect on my outlook of death. Was there sorrow? Of course. But the joy outweighed it.
Now that I’m a mom of six and we’ve watched parents, extended family, grandparents, cousins and dear friends die in this life, my perspective has shifted, once again. So when the phone call came in nearly two weeks ago, I lost my breath and the world came to a screeching halt.
Our dear friends lost their 16-month-old in a tragic accident. He and Gianna were born just three days apart, to the same OB, at the same hospital, to the same nurses. The same priest and Dominican Sisters visited just hours after their births. Our children already had them marrying in France in an elaborate wedding in 20 years. Our children go to school together and our lives are intertwined in many ways. To be perfectly honest, I am still struggling with the reality that he is gone.
The sting of that loss is far greater than I ever imagined. Yet, it is but a sliver of the sorrow our friends, their five other children and their families are carrying. Our school community lost a fourth grade student and a fifth grader’s mom, both to cancer. The grief those families are shouldering is great, but they do not carry it alone. If I were to share with you the outpouring of God’s mercy these past few weeks, you would not believe me. There have been many tender and intimate moments as we attended the visitations, vigils and funeral Masses. Most of which I will keep private.
However, there are some things that need to be shared. And, I pray you read them knowing the broken heart that writes them.
Loss is loss. No matter the circumstances, when someone we love leaves us, the pain is incredibly real.
As our dear friends reminded us, “In order to feel grace this big, you must experience pain and suffering just as big. But the grace? It always outweighs the pain.” Earlier this week I found myself unable to share my grief with other people. It was just too raw. Too real. Too close to home. There was an emergency rosary that day and while I had thought about attending, I just couldn’t bring myself to go. That is, until Scott said, “Go.” And I was reminded that in times of joy, and in sadness, people need people. We cannot hold on to our grief nor can we hole up our compassion. They must be shared.
The hardest moments for me have been during Mass, just after communion, when I find myself in a (nearly) quiet pew with nothing between God and I. That’s when I feel the intimacy. That’s when the sorrow seeps in. That’s when I feel the tears coming. That’s when I remember the ultimate sacrifice He made for us. He knows our sorrow and our pain. Yet, as a I gaze upon the crucifix, I know how the story ends. I know who triumphs over death.
So, while we mourn the loss of three very precious lives, may the deep holes they left in their passing be filled with buckets and buckets of God’s mercy.
His love? It never fails.
Oh Kathryn, we are praying for your community and these families. One thing I have always loved about being Catholic is that we celebrate the same mass for a funeral as we do in baptism or weddings. It was always a reminder to me of the true meaning, gift, and hope of our faith. Celebrations of life are great, but it’s so comforting to know that life is not the end goal.
Yes, People need People in times like this. Sometimes, you need a little distance, but know that people are praying for the loved ones affected by these losses, for those that suffer alongside those loved ones, and for the community that feels the hurt. What a beautiful post you’ve shared.
Oh, Kathryn! I cannot imagine the pain of those families!
But, as you know, I grew up as a Methodist and I lived with my grandparents for a few years. We went to a lot of funeral homes; it was a fairly small town and my grandparents knew a lot of people. So, visitations and funerals were not foreign to me. When my Mother died (I was 10 yers old; my sister eas four years old), it was surreal to say the least.
I married a Catholic in 1956 and became Catholic in 1958. His Mother died in 1960, and that was the first Catholic funeral I had ever attended. It was so beautiful and uplifting I could hardly believe it. There is certainly comfort in the way Catholics “celebrate” all phases of life.
God bless your Parish family!
Kathryn, that was just perfection. You gave voice to the things that have been swirling around in my mind. We’ve seen so much beauty amidst so much sorrow, and in a way that I never have before, I’m actually focusing on the beauty – THAT’S how much I’ve seen. Thank you for writing this – it is yet one more addition to the grace and mercy bucket.
Beautifully stated, Kathryn. I also get choked up after communion. I have fond memories of my Dad and me tearing up and seeing each other with the same reaction.
I think Aloys will now be watching over Gianna.
Love and mercy – yes, that about sums it up. Great post.
I sure hope so, because she is a hot mess. I miss that sweet little guy. Very much.
I’m the same way during Mass. I’m usually a teary mess thinking about Rebecca when I get back to the pew after communion. Prayers for you and all your friends who have experienced such great loss these past few weeks.
My heart goes out to you! I’m keeping you and those who’ve suffered a loss in my prayers.
beautiful. just beautiful.
Thank you I needed that this week myself as we buried a dear friend, a 41 year old Mother of 10 year old twins to Cancer. At the funeral it was shared that although the sun is out we cant see the stars, but they are there…just like our friend and yours… Since we know where they are (HEAVEN), they are not really lost at all.
Continued prayers for the families you mentioned, especially the ones who lost their little one. I can’t even begin to fathom all that everyone is experiencing. I have friends from Austin who were close to the family as well. They’ve been in our prayers from the start. Praying for His Peace, Strength, and Love during this incredibly difficult time.
So sorry to hear all of this, Kathryn. You are all in our prayers. It is so hard to see someone so close going through such incredible grief and to process your own. Love you guys!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth. It has been a hard few weeks but I have seen God’s mercy and that has been so humbling.