Sunday, June 26, 2011

And When I Die

"And when I die, and when I'm gone, there'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on." ~Blood, Sweat and Tears

No visit to my hometown would be complete without a visit to my parent's grave site in Evergreen Cemetery. The highlight for my kids is in finding the trees the grow in the middle of the road in the shaded and well-cared for burial grounds. (Who plants a tree in the middle of the road?) The highlight for me is the opportunity to share memories of my parents with my children and to gather around their headstone in family prayer.

Visiting the cemetery always prompts Paul and I to talk about what types of funerals we might like to have when our time comes to pass and how we would like to be remembered. Paul is always sure to make a somber discussion into something joyful by making the family laugh as he talks about his desire for extravagant coffins and huge gravestones with life-size statues beside them. That is so not Paul!

I can never quite understand the need to show off once we're dead; does it really matter that a body without life is surrounded by silk in the finest mahogany casket only to be placed six feet below the ground where it will rapidly decay? I heard about "green" funerals not too long ago and I've decided that I want to be "green" when I'm dead. I tell the kids to bury me in a cardboard box out in the woods somewhere and whenever they miss me, they can just go for a walk in the woods to remember and pray for me.

Paul again, forever the lighthearted one, tells the kids to gather six banana boxes from the Aldi grocery store, line them up side by side, and just put me in there. It sounds strange and makes me laugh to think of it, but actually, it's quite fitting as those sturdy boxes are practically a symbol of my life! You see, my father worked at Weyerhauser Box Factory for many years and he had a fondness for boxes. I swear we had a whole room in our basement that was filled with boxes in which he organized everything from important files to my family's childhood toys. And he always brought his groceries home in a recycled cardboard box instead of a paper or plastic bag. He was "green" long before it was fashionable to be so.

Well, you know the saying, like father, like daughter, or the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or should I say banana? Banana boxes are my favorite means of carrying home the family groceries from the Aldi Store each week as I always lug four banana boxes from my basement to the store, fill them with nutritious foods and lug them back home. They are useful for so many other carrying jobs as well, that it's not unusual to find me carrying a banana box filled with prayer books, donation baskets and rosaries to a Roses for Our Lady Holy Hour, or setting them out for the Salvation Army Thrift Store Pick Up Truck filled with the families discarded clothing! It makes sense that the boxes that are filled with so many symbols of my life would make a suitable container for my body as it leaves this world.

But as for the funeral Mass on the other hand, that's where my desires do become extravagant. My aunt Monica was the holiest woman I have ever known. She single-handedly and joyfully raised thirteen children and ran a farm by herself after her husband suddenly died when the youngest child was still a baby. She was a lay Carmelite, active in her parish, prayed outside of abortion clinics, and kept a weekly holy hour(her kids would tease her and say "Mom, we think you're just going to a happy hour each week," to which she would reply, "Child, when I'm keeping my holy hour, I am happy!") Monica was a daily Mass attendee and frequent world traveler in her later years. She died while leaving daily Mass on one of her travels. What a beautiful way to go, having just received the Body of Christ in Holy Communion and then immediately enter into eternal communion with the Lord!

At Monica's funeral the church was packed with over 400 people who stayed in the church for nearly three hours to share the stories of her life. There were three priests who officiated and every one of them was crying. It was a beautiful and holy occasion celebrating the life of a beautiful and holy woman.

And that is how I hope to leave this earth as well; lovingly remembered at a large funeral Mass with family, friends and at least three priests who all cry for me, and then bury me in six banana boxes in the woods, preferably near Lake Michigan where my remains will always be near the glistening water and the sparkling sea glass. Then, each time my family misses me, they only need to go for a walk in the woods near the lake and search for sea glass while they pray. My spirit will always be there.

For a Good Death

O most merciful Jesus, I praise and thank Thee for Thy most bitter death, and I beseech Thee, by Thy death and by the breaking of Thy Heart, to grant me a happy death. When my soul leaves my body, may it be immediately delivered from all sin, set free from all debt, and mercifully received into eternal joy. I know, O Lord, that I ask of Thee a very great favour, and a sinner like me ought not to presume to ask it; but it is as easy to Thy goodness to forgive few or many sins. It is not, indeed, our merits, but Thy infinite mercy that procures for us even the least share of heavenly beatitude. In order to be made worthy and fit to receive this favour, grant, O good Lord, that I may now truly and completely die to the world and to myself. From this time forth, may all appear to me worthless that is not Thee. May nothing interest me but Thee alone. For Thy sake may I look on everything with contempt, and may I rejoice when I am despised for Thee. O good Jesus, may I ever be wounded with Thy most pure and fervent love; may all that is not Thee be bitter to me, and may all that is pleasing to Thee become dear to me. Be Thou, my Lord and God, dearer to me than all besides, or rather, be Thou truly all in all to me."
~Dom John of Torralba, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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