We went to a party today. Not the sort of party I normally attend and when I first started going a lifetime ago they were not called parties. Back then we dressed up in our Sunday best and drove off to attend a funeral. If it were in a Protestant church the minister wore black. If it were in a Catholic church the priest wore black silk vestments and was attended by servers with copious amounts of breathtaking incense and holy water enough to get us through to our next Saturday evening baths. At the time I was a server there were weeks when the priests would come and pull me out of classes as often as two or three times a week. Even in small rural villages, somebody has to help the priest at the church and cemetery.
That all wore off as I grew old enough to leave Catholic school for public high school and a new town. I missed seeing all of the angels and spirits at funerals, odd as that might sound for a teenage boy. From early childhood I had been tremendously excited at going to church because there it was acceptable to see all of the angels, to see the Mother of God standing beside the altar. There was nothing freakish at all about seeing blood drip from the host, so long as I kept my tongue in my head and never uttered a word.
The only time somebody died in high school that was very surprising was a few days before graduation. One of the guys in my graduating class was out tooling around on his motor cycle. He went into a corner too fast and never came out. His chair was beside mine at graduation. I remember different kids saying to me how awful I had to sit beside the empty chair and giving me pitying looks.
What empty chair? Tom and I had a good time. I just made sure not to say anything out loud to him or turn right to talk to him. We graduated, he went Home, it’s all fine.
The plague that struck the world so hard three decades ago has been literally breathtaking. There were times when it was difficult to believe so many of the guys I knew were dying around me.
I stopped going to funerals. No more memorials. In the last two decades it’s been cut down to almost nothing. It is simply too exhausting. There is no more me left after a typical funeral of trying not to tell people what I see.
The deacon led us through the service today. It was short, beautiful and sometimes horribly funny. The sisters of our dead friend and other friends told stories that had us laughing. Not precisely what one expects in a Catholic chapel on a Sunday.
Today I turned around after the service and told one of our friend’s sisters what I saw. I told her how Michael had briefly shown up. He told me where to tell his sisters they will see him before he leaves this world for good. I told Michael’s sister what he said. She was not at all surprised. I also told her that if either of them ever wanted to talk where they can find me.
We all drove off to a restaurant for a lovely lunch and a couple more hours of laughs and memories. Those times are so often more filling for the soul than the dreariness that can be a funeral.
In the grocery store the other day another friend walked up to thank me for what I’d written in my book about how his wife had appeared beside him when he gave the sermon at her funeral. His wife had so loved life. We’d had some marvelous talks about God and the angels before her death. It was no surprise that angels filled the sanctuary at her funeral floor to ceiling. They were chock-a-block. When she came and stood beside her husband both of their guardian angels stood behind them with wings of shining white glistening with gold and silver. It was so right.
Today it was so right to have Michael’s ashes on the table, the tabernacle beside it and light from the stained glass streaming white and green and blue into a room of men and women who loved him. It was so right to be in that place of hope and joy and peace. What a precious gift it is to be called to be present to witness miracles.
Michael’s party was like his life, one miracle flowing from the next.