Why I Cried…

Recently the mother of a friend of mine passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s.  Over the past year, as her mother’s health rapidly declined, I have tried to support my friend in the limited ways I was able: checking in with her, listening, and praying with and for her.  When I left for her mother’s visitation at the local funeral home, I had no idea that it would such a profound experience or that I would be crying for close to two hours.  There are many reasons why I cried, even though I never met my friend’s mother even once.

1)  It was very obvious that the deceased was well-loved by her family and friends.  As everyone gathered in the room, people were invited to come up to the podium and share stories and memories about the deceased.  I know that everyone says nice things about the deceased at a funeral, but sometimes you can tell when people are borderline lying to come up with something nice to say.  I felt sorry for my friend who had lost her beloved mother as well as her brothers, step-brothers, step-father, husband, children, and nieces who all lost someone they would miss dearly.

2)  The deceased was younger than both of my parents.  It’s inevitable to think about how one day I will be in my friend’s position, mourning the loss of a parent.  I thought about how my friend’s youngest children will have little to no memory of their grandmother, and how, even though my parents are in good health, that they might not live long enough to see my youngest reach her 18th birthday.  The feeling was similar to when my next door neighbor (7 years my senior) got married when I was about 14; I remember crying at the wedding because I knew that my childhood was kind of behind me and adulthood was ahead of me.  I got a sense of what is approaching.

3)  One of the people who stood up to speak was my friend’s aunt.  She started by joking that she had known the deceased longer than anyone in the room.  They had fought with each other, and they loved each other.  It made me examine my own relationship with my sister, which hasn’t been close in a very long time.  It made me imagine (hopefully) many, many, many years from now what it will be like when my girls must mourn the eventual passing of each other.

4)  And then my friend stood up to speak.  She and I met when our oldest girls were in gymnastics classes during at the same  hour.  We struck up conversation and found that we were both Catholic homeschoolers in love with the Catholic Church and worrying about the best ways to help our children get to heaven.  She invited me to join a new Catholic homeschooling group that she was starting.

My friend had prepared a short speech, typing it out, because she wasn’t sure that she would have the strength to be coherent speaking off the cuff.  Her speech was about the last lesson that her mother had taught her through the long battle with Alzheimer’s.  My friend spoke about the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering, aka “offering it up”.  She spoke with humility for those who may disagree or be ignorant of this idea.  She spoke with the strength of truth.  She spoke with pride at having finally understood something her mom had been trying to teach her for over 20 years and love that this was something her mom had tried to teach her at all.  And she spoke with a longing that others could learn this lesson, too.  She wanted the suffering her mother endured, the indignities that come with Alzheimer’s, to be united with the suffering of Christ for the good of others.

I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through her and her grief.  And I was so proud of her.  I was proud to have someone like her as my friend.  So, I cried with pride.  And I cried with thankfulness to God for bringing us together.  Because it was truly God that brought us together:  our love of God, our faith in God, our trust in God, and our hope in God.

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