“I’ve come to say goodbye….”

elder epiphanios2Today, my stepdad is being laid to rest.  Memory Eternal, Frank.  He has been such a dynamic part of our family, affecting my own nuclear family, but also our family-at-large and our friends, as well.  He certainly will be remembered for his approach to life, his stories, and his desire to make us all have fun and to smile.  I smile when I think of him, even now.  I am not able to travel to his Funeral Mass or Burial and as I am writing this, it happening right now, in a different state.  I know God will give comfort to my mom and his family, as well as my brother (a pallbearer) and my son and his wife, who are also there.  The love my stepdad and my mom shared, they shared with all of us.  I truly believe that when you experience that “great love story” you cannot help but spread it around.  And that love between two people who are dedicated to one another, well, it rubs off on the rest of us and it is a beautiful thing to experience.  It is the joy of family, and friends who are so close to us, they become family, as well.  So, thank you, Frank, for loving us all as you did; we are blessed.

The love my stepdad shared is love we can all experience, and its being there does not diminish the love others have for us, or love we bear others, but only enhances it.  I do not believe that by mentioning this one relationship, others I share are diminished.  Like Elder Epiphanios says, “the initial flame remains unaffected; it doesn’t lessen at all.”  And I think that is something that makes the love God has for me even more real.  It is hard to philosophize on something so esoteric as our faith, without some sort of reality we can look to.  Quite often, we place religious fervor in a side category, or something that is reserved for Sundays, and the rest of the week, it is put on hold.  I used to be amazed at how fervently you would see people praying in Church, and how ardently they would fight a mere 20 minutes later to get out of the parking lot.  Or run to the hall to grab the best donuts (and the most donuts) while in line, without a thought to those behind you in that same line. For me, I am finding that I need to break down those walls that have set up these artificial compartments in my life, and allow it all to freely flow.  My faith should imbue all aspects of my life. One part should be enhanced by the other.  I heard someone recently say that “religion is religion and work is work,” meaning that they do not bring their faith into what they do for a living. In this particular case, it was an actor.  (I honestly do not remember which one said it; I only recall how disappointed I was in the comment).  And because this person compartmentalizes what they do for a living, they justify filming inappropriate movies for a Christian, apart from the “person” they are.  That, for me, is indicative of how our culture has fallen.

Elder Pasios

When people believe that they have been slighted because of your expression of admiration or love for others, that is their own insecurity speaking and perhaps not an accurate reflection of the true state of “relationship” with you.  Pride of place is something that has been a struggle for mankind since its creation.  God walked freely in the Garden with Adam and Eve; pride led them out of the Garden, where they hid in shame from their Creator.  The Apostles argued over who was the greater among them: “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his sideand said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.'” Luke 9:46-48.  In another verse He also chastises them: “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:36-45).

Remember in Junior High when we used to fold notebook paper into those triangles, with notes written inside, and pass them to friends?  I had this one boy who wanted me to “be his girlfriend.”  He used to throw me these notes over the fence on my way to school.  Inside was always the same thing, “Will you be my girlfriend?”  I was 12 at the time and he was 14! An older man!  And this other boy also liked me at the same time, but he was far more direct…he threw his St. Christopher medal at me and told me to put it on! He was jealous this other boy was giving me notes!  When I look back on those things, I laugh.  We lived for years on dairy farms, and we used to get a kick out of the cows, juggling to stand at the highest point on the pile of manure.  It is not for the view!  They were trying to see who would be first in the herd.  It is the same with people. Petty jealousies do not build relationships; it tears them apart.  Not everyone hears the same message, even though the same words are said.  The Apostles James and John are emblematic of that very issue. These two men had walked with Our Lord and sat with Him, hearing from Him the lessons of the Kingdom to come.  And yet, here they are, juggling for “first place.”  Not everyone will be saved; not everyone can be “number one” in life.  But equality is something we can all aspire to share.  Equality before the Lord; equality in our love for one another. There is no “grade” of love, like there is with meat or eggs or any other food stuff.  “Grade A” eggs! “Grade A” beef!  Therefore, I opt to pray for those who feel slighted, and feel less “place” than others in my life.  If there is no opportunity to interact on a real level (minus social media) quite often the relationship withers on its own; others are bound by blood-ties and remain, even if somewhat strained.  The relationship with God is something we experience in our hearts and we can feel His presence, if we allow ourselves the quiet and calm time to commune with Him.  We owe God that quiet time and it is through that time with Him that we grow closer and more in-tune with His plans for our lives.

St. Nikolai

It is through constantly renewing and experiencing our relationships, that they are strengthened.  The same is true with our experience of God; our relationship with Him.  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).  I know that I ought to allow the strength of Christ to flow through me, erasing those artificial compartments, allowing all my relationships to feel His love, His strength.  Perhaps if those in my life who feel slighted were to feel this love of Christ through me, they would no longer feel slighted. It is something I am convicted to work on and work through.  It is part of this incredible Lenten journey we are all on.  The Lord allows these things to be brought to our attention, for our illumination and efforts at corrections.  What a merciful Lord we adore! “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

My stepdad, Frank, is being buried from Bl. Kateri Tekawitha parish and this is a quote from Bl. Kateri’s apparition shortly after her death: “I’ve come to say good-bye; I’m on my way to heaven.”

Memory eternal, Frank, and I am so blessed to have had you love my mom, me, and my family. Here is a Byzantine prayer for the dead, in honor of Frank:

“Eternal memory. Eternal memory. Grant to your servant, O Lord, blessed repose and eternal memory. Amen.”

Lastly, the prayer of the Roman Catholic Church, where Frank is being buried from:

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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