This afternoon I attended a memorial mass for a friend's father, who died 5 years ago. For me, now, any memorial mass for a parent touches very close to home, and I found myself reflecting on Momma's death, too.
I saw my friend and her mother in the front pew, and I could tell my friend was crying. I thought of Momma's funeral and my family in the front rows. Daddy, me, Taylor, Vivian. My sister Summer's family. Ray and his family; Bethany and her family. I remembered how good it was to have so much of my family there beside me, feeling our loss all together. It was easier to bear the pain when I could hold Vivian's hand or cling to Daddy's arm. It was more comforting to bury my face in Taylor's shoulder than into my handkerchief alone.
When I first faced the fact that my mother was dying, I thought of my friend, whose father also died from cancer. She is an only child and I remember thinking to myself, "She only has her mother left to remember her father from her childhood." I wasn't judging her or her parents for having a "small" family; I wasn't trying to congratulate myself for having "so many" siblings. It was merely an observation I had at the time, wrapped all about with the coming loss of my mother. I was especially thankful for my siblings, then, and for my nieces and nephews who had known Grandmama while she was with us.
When my friend stood up to read the prayers of the faithful, she prayed for all those who had suffered the loss of a parent. I lowered my eyes, fighting back tears. Her eyes were red, glistening around the edges with fresh tears, and her voice was very soft, nearly breaking. I knew what she was feeling. And I knew she knew how I felt. We were sisters, in a way, in that moment. We prayed together, heart to heart.
I was nearly knocked over with the realization of those words. It didn't matter how many siblings I did (or didn't) have--I had a thousand siblings in Christ who pray for me and mourn the loss of my mother with me; who rejoice at the blessings I have received, or laugh at my silliness, and cry at my sorrow. In that moment, watching these two woman remember the life of husband and father, I had a sudden and striking vision of the bond we all share in Christ's Love. I could feel the family-ness fill the whole church, wrapping us all in a firm embrace.
As Christians we know we are all called to something so much greater than this life on earth. As Fr. Tacelli said during his homily, "We who have lost loved ones, we know that we too must follow the same road, making our way toward the same end." Our hope, our eternal hope as Christians, is that we will see our beloved families again, and know them all for the first time.