When I was 13 years old, a cousin of mine died as a result of a tragic accident. He was 11 years old at the time of his death. The day after he died, my parents and I went over to his parents’ house to visit his family. I went with my parents because I had been a good friend of my cousin and still was a good friend of his older brother.
While my parents were in the house, my cousin’s brother and I sat outside on lawn chairs in the front yard. I tried to keep a conversation going, but there were several times when he stopped talking, put his hands over his face, and cried. Every time he cried, he said, “Harry, I hope this never happens to you.” There was nothing I could do or say to comfort him.
The following evening I attended the visitation with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters. When it came time to end the visitation and close the casket, the funeral director announced that the family of my cousin was going to stay behind to view the body one final time. When all the friends and other relatives of the family left the room, I stayed behind and walked up to the casket with the parents, sister, and brothers of my cousin.
My cousin’s mother stood in front of his open casket for an extended period of time. Tears flowed down her face as she looked at her son for the last time. As she was getting ready to leave, she put her hand on his chest and bent down and kissed his cheek. After she kissed him, I heard her whisper, “Rest in peace, rest in peace, rest in peace.”
She kept saying it over and over through her tears: “Rest in peace, rest in peace.” She didn’t know what else to say. My uncle lovingly placed his hand on my aunt’s shoulder and said, “We should probably go now.” She slowly turned away from the casket and allowed her husband to lead her out of the funeral home. The rest of us silently followed them.
The sorrow that a mother experiences when she buries her own child is overwhelming. There is guilt, sorrow, anguish, and a complete sense of helplessness.
Do you think that the mother of Jesus said anything to Him when she gazed upon His mortal body for the last time? I expect that she did the same thing my aunt did — she leaned over and kissed Him, and then, like my aunt, she spoke to Him. There is a strong likelihood that the words she used were words of gratitude, praise, and adoration. She adored Him when she saw Him for the first time as an infant and she adored Him when she saw Him for the last time before burying Him in the tomb.
Last week, I wrote about my experience with the death of my younger sister, Kathryn Mary. A few weeks after Kathryn was born, when my parents were planning for her baptism, I asked my mom if I could be Kathryn’s godfather. Without thinking, my mom immediately said no. While I was surprised that she answered without taking the time to consider my question, I assumed that she already had someone else in mind.
A couple of days later, Mom approached me and told me that she had talked to my dad about my request and they had decided that they would like me to be Kathryn’s godfather. Of course, I was pleased that she had changed her mind and I accepted. At that time, I was 15 years old, and I had never been asked to be a godfather.
After Kathryn died, when my dad announced her death to me and my brothers and sisters, he told us that Kathryn had died and gone to Heaven. He explained to us that, because she was baptized and had never sinned, her soul went straight to Heaven. He said that she was now a saint and he reminded us that all saints in Heaven can hear our prayers and have the ability to directly petition God on our behalf.
From that moment on, I developed the habit of frequently reaching out to Kathryn for help. It brought me great comfort to have an advocate in Heaven who was available at all times to assist me in my needs. Prior to meeting Georgette, I routinely asked Kathryn to help me find a wife. Although I don’t talk to Kathryn now as much as I used to, there are still occasions when I reach out to her for assistance.
There is a simple but powerful secret that is used by saintly Catholics to deal with the sorrow, grief, anger, guilt, loneliness, and resentment that accompanies the death of a loved one. That secret is to talk to your loved one as though he or she is sitting next to you. You may complain, talk about what you did today, express how much you miss him or her, or ask for assistance.
When the Blessed Mother returned to her empty home after burying her Son, her grief and sorrow were so overwhelming that the only way she was able to cope was to reach out to God the Father in prayer, and to talk to her Son as though He was physically present with her in her home.
Despite the fact that our Lord rose from the dead and remained on Earth for 40 days before ascending into Heaven, the memory of His torture and death, along with the void that He left when he departed from this Earth, adversely affected His mother for the rest of her life.
The burial of the body of Jesus in the tomb is the seventh and final sorrow of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
Dear Georgette and Harry,[When I think of one, I think of the other]
Thank you, once again, for sharing your family story as you bring the Life of Jesus and His Mother into focus for us.
We’ve all experienced the death of a loved one, so when you relay your story, it brings back fond memories!!
Blessings to both of you and your children!
Love, Sister Roberta