It’s been over a year since my last post. (And after typing that, I realize it sounds a little like the beginning of confessional–oh well.) Anyway, quite a lot has happened since then. I’d like to tell you all about it, but it will be very long, so I’ll attempt chapters.
A few weeks after the last post, my grandfather passed away. It was a hard time for us. He was 90, and he had spent the last few months of his life dealing with kidney failure, so we knew his end was near. However, it was difficult to see him go, because while he lived a good life and was a kind and generous man, we never had a clear confirmation of his relationship with Christ. We did get quite a bit of encouragement at his funeral mass, though. The local priest was on vacation, so they called in the priest from my grandfather’s former parish. We all knew this to be the priest my grandfather liked. The priest gave the most uplifting, Christ-centered Catholic mass I have ever heard. He focused quite a bit on 1 Corinthians 15 and the discussion of resurrection from the dead. He emphasized that eternal life is only available because of Jesus Christ. I was very encouraged by the amount of truth he shared. It’s the closest thing we have to confirmation of Grandpa’s salvation.
Now the funeral service offered plenty of entertainment on its own. I road to NY with my parents, one sister and her husband road out the next day with my brother and his family. They had very little time between driving to town and going to the funeral. Everyone who came into the church for the service sat on the right side. The only people who sat on the left side were the pallbearers. We never did really understand why, but it made for lots of good jokes about all of us being friends of the groom. My nieces and nephew were confused, though. They couldn’t figure out why all the police sat on the other side. The six pallbearers were my uncle, my brother, and 4 of my cousins. Three of the four cousins wore their Marine uniforms. Those were the “police.”
The service also called for congregational prayer, which in a Catholic church means using the kneeling bench. This was fascinating for my 3-year-old niece who leaned over the edge of the bench to investigate. She proceeded to fall head first and hit every hard wooden surface on her path before hitting the hard wooden floor. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt, but the thuds got many of us laughing hard. Of course, this all happened during the funeral, too, so we were trying very hard not to be heard of make a scene.
Then, they had the family go to the back of the sanctuary to form a receiving line as people exited. Only, the people exiting didn’t really understand that it was supposed to be a receiving line, so they just lined up behind the family, and every just kinda stood in line. My siblings and a few cousins, began to leave in the other direction. On the way, we saw the priest in a back room. He had taken off his long white robe and was preparing to leave. My 5-year-old niece pointed at him and said, “Oh look, there’s the doctor! I like him.” The rest of the weekend was a bittersweet time of sorting through Grandpa’s pictures and swapping stories of his life and our memories. We also had lots on our mind about my older sister and her family.
As soon as I got news that my grandfather had passed, I made plans to head to NY state for the funeral. That same evening, as I was packing for my trip, I got an urgent text message from my brother-in-law. His father had collapsed and was unresponsive. A little while later that evening, I got a phone call that he passed away. My brother-in-law said it was a heart attack. He had been a pastor at a small church in Michigan. That evening, the church had a carry-in dinner. He had stayed behind to finish closing up. In the process, he had collapsed. Another church member drove by and saw him a couple minutes later, but it was too late.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t all be in two places, and we all wanted to be there for my sister and her family. We also knew she wanted to be at Grandpa’s services. I don’t like leaving this post with such a seemingly sad ending, but it is getting to be a long first chapter. That’s where I was about 18 months ago. Don’t worry, though, things did get better. I’ll share more about that in later chapters.