"Christ Meets Me Even Here"
Whitney discovers a surprising joy and gratitude in the months following her mother's funeral
For the last several months I have felt myself going through a time of numbness. When I was not numb, I was angry. I didn’t know how to give voice to my anger and my uncertainty. For the first time in five years, I saw that my questions terrified me. “What good is something if it ends?” was my resounding question. I was scandalized by the fact that this was a question that I felt like I should have known the answer to. I felt frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t change or fix my circumstances, nor could my friends.
On the morning of February 2nd, I received a phone call from my brother, who was in tears, trying to get the words out to tell me that my mom had suffered a second brain aneurysm and had died. In that one sentence, everything changed for me. As I drove to my dad’s house that morning I kept crying out, “Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam.” I was begging for this with a sincerity that I had lacked for months. In the face of this massive loss, I was suddenly so aware of how much I needed. Even greater than my need for my mother, I recognized that I needed the One who made her. I needed the One that created and continues to creates me.
On the day of the funeral, I had two friends that were getting married three hours away, so a lot of my friends were unable to be at the funeral Mass with me. I walked into the Church with a crushing feeling that I was alone and the overwhelming realization that I was about to attend my mother’s funeral Mass.
My family lined up behind the coffin, preparing to process in behind her, I stood behind my dad and began to feel very sorry for myself. I was at the point of breaking down completely when I looked up and saw a very dear friend of mine a few pews ahead. He was turned around in his seat, looking at me, and smiling. Suddenly, I had the realization that I was not alone at all. My friends, those present, and those that were not, were carrying me with them in their hearts on this day.
Over the next two weeks, I was constantly moved by all of the beautiful things that I had seen happen to my family. I did not know how to fully look at the fact that I was grieving greatly, while also so filled with joy from the gift of her life. At the New York Encounter I was in the middle of asking a friend how she was. She broke into tears and told me about how she feels so alive at work, but when she comes home, she doesn’t feel this way anymore. I asked her what it was that she saw at work to make her feel this way. She answered that it is so clear to her that the people she helps at work have been given to her and being in front of them changes her day.
It was in front of her question for her life that I began to see what it was from my own life that I had been unable to make a judgment on. I started to tell her about my experience at my mom’s funeral, and how seeing the face of this friend smiling at me brought about something new for me. She had attended the funeral herself, and she interrupted me saying, “Yeah! I have been meaning to ask you about this. Why the heck were you smiling when you walked into your mom’s funeral?” She had seen that I was crying, too, but that there was very clearly a smile on my face. I told her that this joy came from the realization that I didn’t have to be angry or feel alone on this day. The friends that were physically present, as well as the ones that weren’t, are all signs of the One who gives them to me. I processed into the Church, behind my mother’s body with a certainty that the One that gives these friends to me, is the same One that gave her to me, and I am not alone. Without this awareness, I would have processed down the aisle behind my mother’s body and I would have felt abandoned. I would have been angry with my friends for being at the wedding and not with me. I would have thought about all of the ways in which this circumstance should be different – “My friends should be here with me”, “My mom should be alive” – and I would have been frustrated by the fact that even if my friends would have been there, my mother would not be any less dead. During the Mass, not a single tear could be shed for myself. My eyes were full of the beauty of my mother’s life and a certainty that I belong to Christ, and that He truly gives me all that I need. I told my friend that, frequently now, after work, I go to my dad’s house and when he goes to bed, I sit in the living room of the new house that was designed for my mom. She spent hours picking out each appliance, planning with my dad all the beautiful features in their home they would enjoy together, and now she is not there. However, how I sit in the room has changed. It has changed out of recognition of the One who meets all of my needs, who gives me these friends and gave me my mom. Christ meets me even here.
My question, “what good is something if it ends?” is not a question that I have in the face of her death. The beauty of the gift of her life has been the dominant realization of these weeks. I am grateful for this companionship that we share that has helped me to realize that I have grown in affection for my circumstances because I know that I wouldn’t ask to trade them if it meant lessening the certainty that I have of my belonging to Him.
Whitney, Tallahassee, FL