Death and Curiosity

I’m running late on my Forming Intentional Disciples post this week because I was sidetracked by a funeral.  I have some longer, essay-type comments up at the Catholic Writers Guild, for those who want a different set of thoughts.

(So does Charlotte Ostermann – editor’s fault, we ended up with not one but two people talking about discipleship this week.)


So.  Death.

Curious thing #1: I like funerals.  Don’t like death, do like eternal life, and I come from a family of undertakers. (The link is to my mom’s cousin — our little shoot of family isn’t in the business, we just lend our moral support from afar.)  I don’t get this whole fear-of-funerals things, not in my blood.

Curious thing #2: I jump on the chance to take my kids along to a good funeral.  Not because I’m morbid, but because familiarity with the rituals surrounding death sure makes it easier to function when the time comes to bury someone you really loved.  And we all end up either buried or burying, so I consider a working knowledge of that corporal work of mercy an essential life skill.

Curious thing #3: When my mom died, a bunch of my dad’s co-workers filled the pews at her funeral Mass.  People I’d never met before, and I’m not sure she’d ever met before.  Most of them weren’t Catholic.  The bulk of the group just filed in, found a spot in the pews, and filed out afterwards.  A few shook hands and introduced themselves to us.  One couple, who had known my parents for years, brought dinner to the house one of the evenings.

All of these were surprisingly comforting.  People always worry, “Should I go to the funeral? I wasn’t really a close friend.”  Yes, you should go.  The surviving family is mourning the loss of one of the most important people in the world to them.  To see that so many people care enough to turn out for an hour or two sends a message I never expected until I was the recipient: Yes, this life mattered to us, too.

[Of course you won’t be obnoxious and insinuate yourself into the family circle, or wail and gnash teeth and beg the survivors to comfort *you*.  But just showing up and praying alongside the bereaved?  Healthy and good.]

Curious thing #4: My mom’s funeral mass *rocked*.  Which is to say, it was just this normal suburban catholic middle-American mass in a large, spacious, dentist-office-inspired building, and we sang Eagle’s Wings and all that stuff.  But Father Nigerian Loaner Priest Who Doesn’t Mince Words laid out a beautiful homily on purgatory and praying for souls and the utter nonsense of instant universal canonizations at funeral masses.

Also, they did the announcement about not receiving communion unless you were a practicing Catholic in a state of grace, and did offer the blessing-alternative, which I know people smarter than myself do question, with good reason, but I’ll just observe that it serves a good purpose, and served that purpose that day.

Curious thing #5: The funeral yesterday was just as good, in a different, non-denominational evangelical way.

Because, Curious thing #6: If a funeral doesn’t draw you closer to God, I don’t know what will.

Which is to say, Curious thing #7: A funeral that does not draw people closer to God is not a good funeral.



Head over to to read posts from normal people who answered the actual discussion questions and stuff.

8 thoughts on “Death and Curiosity

  1. Yes. My aunt (A 20-year wife of a chronically ill man) posted this image on facebook several months ago. I lost it, but I had to find it because of the sidebar at curious thing #3.,0,2074046.story
    I have been on the outside, mostly, of course. But my grandmother’s long-term illness, my uncle’s, and my daughter’s… I know something about the inside rings. This is a wise suggestion.

    Sorry for your loss, for the grieving family.

  2. When my grandma died at 94 a few years ago, she’d outlived all her friends and only had 2 grandchildren. The pastor planned a funeral in her long-time church’s chapel. But so many of my parents’ friends and parishioners-who-hardly-knew-her and 2nd cousins from other states came that they used the main church after all and I was so touched. My mom and her brothers have been much closer ever since and some cousins have begun travelling here annually to visit my mom and my grandpa (who is really the last of the generation). I wish it could have happened without her death, but I’m sure she’d be happy knowing that she somehow brought everyone together.

    My 3rd son was 3 months old at the time and many people came up to tell me how wonderful it was to hear a baby crying during the funeral and to recognize that life goes on. It meant so much to me.

  3. So much food for thought here. I just sang Ave Maria at the wake of a co-worker whose mother passed. I don’t do funerals. It’s selfish. And awful. Since my grandmothers death I just can’t do it. But I did last night and felt that just being there and praying for this woman’s soul was good. And for once I wasn’t sad but happy that another soul is on their way to see Him. Other points you brought up – so much food for thought. So much in fact, this little comment box can’t hold them. Loved this post!

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