Eighteen years ago I was introduced to the father of my boyfriend's friend. It was one of those 'doorman' introductions, the kind that parents like to get so they recognize the strange people coming in and out of their house. But with Richard it was so much more; he treated me as an equal, as someone who was worth talking to and not just as some kid's girlfriend soon to be replaced. Richard was like that. He and his wife often called to invite me to parties or plays even when my partner was out of state at college and their son had left home. They included our family in their celebrations and lives.
A few years ago Richard died after a long and painful illness. We were all hurt and sad and grieving but I felt that I could not grieve for myself because I needed to support and comfort the people who were closer to him like Richard's family and my partner. The appropriate time for contemplating all the parts of losing Richard's life seemed to get pushed further and further away from me. Until the funeral Mass. Here, in the familiar ritual, was the time and place and structure for celebrating a life and mourning a loss. We, corporately and individually, could remember how God was a part of Richard's life and how that life was eternal though the earthly part was over.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord; and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, of die, we are the Lord's.
We were lead by the priest to view a whole life coming to a natural transition (though not when we would have chosen it).
Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The ritual of the Mass channeled my grief, it gave me a calm and familiar way to mourn the loss of a light in my life even while comforting me that Richard is still a part of the family of God.
Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we can not understand to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting.
And so we left the graveside with sorrow but also in joy and peace. We saw how our lives could reflect the witness he had been; how we reflected him even if we didn't mean to.
Almighty and everlasting God, we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of they grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their steadfastness in thy faith, and obedience to thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical body of the Son, may be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Grant this, O Father, for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.