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Monday, May 11, 2009

Life & Death - our mysterious path to Heaven

We (Dave & I) are driving sadly away from a funeral of someone that we were blessed to have called a friend. It is surreal that Giselle has passed from this life – she was so young! Hers was a peaceful transition to a new birth - eternal life that will be free of any aging, additional cancer, illness, physical pain, and earthly concerns. Nevertheless, she will be sorely missed.
The pastor’s words during the funeral homily are worth noting - I will try to capture some of them in this posting.

Giselle spent her whole life serving God and the family that He helped her "co-create" with Andy. She lovingly, joyfully, and willingly served her family and God - she knew that this mattered. She knew how to love and trust. While we frequently and erroneously try to canonize people at their funeral- her pastor believed that in this case it was ok - he believed that Giselle is already enjoying the presence of our Lord. I think so too. Why? There were many signs…

Giselle exuded joy, peace, love, faith, charity, fortitude, temperance, self control, and, patience in life and also during her battle with cancer. She readily offered up her suffering- and it was real- for some very special intentions. She didn’t look back when asked to forfeit her life despite leaving behind a loving husband and five young children who will miss her greatly. Regardless of her undying love for them, she loved God more. This is the life of a saint.

Furthermore, Giselle died with great dignity, acceptance and peace. She understood what it meant to offer up her suffering - she commented that if it helps anyone or anything (and she believed it did) she would gladly do it all over again. The last hours - when told there was nothing else they (doctors) could do - she wrote down that she was ready to see God face to face. When asked if she was afraid, she wrote that she wasn’t – and she wasn’t! She welcomed death knowing that in dying she would be born to eternal life.

Her battle against cancer was mounted courageously even while accepting the fact that death was highly probable. Giselle told us that she could accept God's plan whatever it was ; furthermore, she accepted His plan without asking "why me?"

Giselle painstakingly wrote thoughts and love notes in a journal after learning that her odds weren't that great. She did this for several reasons- she knew that her words would provide a testimony to her faith, a lasting legacy to her husband and children, and an encouragement to her family after she wasn't there to talk to them directly. She loved Andy and the children.

Giselle had a devotion to Our Lady- she died in May - the month traditionally dedicated to Mary.

It has been said that God asks mothers especially - to not look back- to let go of their babies. Giselle did that - she let go because she loved God. She also was able to let go because she had fully experienced authentic love on earth with her husband and children - she had no regrets. She had learned to love with her whole heart, mind, and will. She had learned to love righteously – her love and life became ordered by faith-filled priorities.

The priest issued a warning to all of us who grieve her passing – but especially to Andy and the children. He reminded the children that they have received the faith from their mother; they are now responsible for growing this faith in the days, months and years ahead despite bearing enormous loss and the pain of separation. They are called to be saints like their mother. Surely, they will be tempted by Satan to despair of God’s love in the days ahead. They will be tempted especially on days when the loss hurts so badly. Surely, Satan will tempt all of us by reminding us that God took Giselle when she was young and active - we will be asked to consider why God couldn't have waited. Satan will paint God as missing in action (MIA) or AWOL (absent without leave) or even selfish for taking Giselle to Himself before we were ready to let her go. He will remind the children that God took Giselle before their graduation, their wedding day, the birth of Giselle's first grandchild.... He will tempt them to be angry with God for taking her before they were ready to let her go.

In truth the real question is this: are we ever ready to let someone go? Truth be told, the answer would be no. God, in His wisdom, took Giselle when she was ready. The rest of us need to get ourselves ready.

God will ask all of us in the days and months ahead: do we love Him? Do we trust Him? Will we honor Him? Only God understands why Giselle died May 3, 2009 and was dedicated to Him on May 8, 2009. May none of us despair or grow bitter with her departure. May God Bless Andy and the kids with grace and hope during their intense mourning. May they grieve like St. Peter. May we all mourn with righteousness.

Andy and Giselle demonstrated authentic love- they helped countless marriages with their NFP instruction in class, in person and on the air waves. What they did mattered to God. He blessed Giselle with countless gifts of grace that enabled her to endure the suffering and accept her death.

Andy and the kids can surely know God's love because He graced them for a little while with a saintly wife and mother. What more could they ask for or have received?

On a final note, after the reception we were gently reminded by a faith-filled old man (he describes himself as old- he's 85) as he witnessed to the beauty of marriage. Dr. Busam told us that we will not be able to fully experience Andy's pain unless we have also lost a spouse. He went on to say that " it is true - when we marry, we become one body. When our spouse dies, we are literally cleaved in half! Oh the pain is tremendous and the suffering untold. Furthermore, we never really heal from the loss. "

So let us all pray for marriage which is under attack today. Let us pray for all widows and widowers. And let us pray especially for Andy and the kids in the days and months ahead.

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