Among the many transitions we make in life there is one that is final. Visiting Fr. Tim Power’s grave in Pleasant Hill Cemetery adjacent to Pax Christi brings a new perspective to moving from death to new life. His memorial stone records his birth date and his death date with the word “graduated” between the two. Ever the pastor, Tim is asking us to see our final transition as similar to moving on, like graduation, embracing a new horizon.
When we are in school, we look toward graduations, knowing what the requirements are to achieve commencement. We plan for it. Graduations are celebrated to both honor the one graduating and also to help us get through a necessary transition within our own families as the graduate moves on to college or begins a new way of interacting with us. Poster boards, videos, toasts, and speeches focus on the journey. Our final transition is celebrated in much the same way.
Pax Christi’s funeral ministry provides direction to those preparing a prayer experience celebrating someone who has died and consoling those who mourn. Two prayer services, with possible music, readings, prayers, and roles for those grieving are presented on Pax Christi’s website. One service is a funeral Mass; the other is a funeral service, newly created to address the needs of mourners from different faith traditions or families who wish to honor their loved one with a Catholic service, but do not feel the funeral Mass is the right option. The website clearly describes how to design either celebration within the Catholic Tradition. Pax Christi’s pastoral and liturgical staff are available to help. What is the purpose of such celebrations? They honor the deceased and help the mourners with their transitions of sadness, grief, and loss. They provide a vision of light in darkness, hope in sorrow, and faith in the future.
One story Fr. Tim told at a funeral symbolizes the transition Pax Christi’s funeral services are meant to provide. The gospel was John 14: 1–4, where Jesus tells His disciples He is going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Tim followed this reading with a story.
A terminally ill child asked his mother if death hurt. “Kenneth,” she said, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mom’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed – it is not where you belonged. In the morning, much to your surprise, you found yourself in your own bed, in your own room. That was because someone, your dad, loved you and carried you there.
Kenneth, death is like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room, our own, where we belong, because God has prepared it for us.”
It’s hard knowing that we can’t see or experience the room prepared for our loved one. But with the community gathered around us, with voices raised in song, saying good-bye in prayer can make this final transition bearable.