My great aunt died and I attended the funeral. As the liturgy began, we gathered around the baptismal font, placed a white pall on the casket, and sprinkled baptismal water. The priest explained that the white pall reminded us of the white baptismal garment my aunt received many years earlier. From that moment on the word 'interconnected' repeated in my mind for the remainder of the liturgy.
Her baptism was certainly interconnected with her funeral. In Baptism, dying to herself enabled her to rise to new life in Christ. The end of her earthly life enabled her to enter eternal life. Just as birth is less of an end to the time in the womb than it is the beginning of a new life, death is not an end but a new beginning. We pray she is united with the Lord whom she encountered in her baptism and whom she followed throughout her life.
I was asked to serve as a pall bearer and as we carried her into the church, I was reminded of my recent reflections on how we carry our children to the font. When parents carry children to the font, they introduce them to the sacramental signs we experience in this life. The dearly departed no longer need sacramental signs when they are face to face with God. My carrying of my aunt from the font out of the church for the last time felt interconnected with her parents carrying her into the church to the font for the first time.
As the liturgy continued, the priest said that when a Christian dies the community is immediately called to ministry. I recalled many of the deaths in our family when family and friends leaped into action to care for and console the grieving. We don’t sit idly by as a member of our community mourns a loss. We attend wakes, prepare meals, visit homes, offer shoulders to cry on and ears to listen, and pray for the family. We don’t wait to be asked. When there is a death we respond immediately, with urgency, almost instinctually. I recognized the interconnectedness of all the faithful gathered in the church. We were connected in our grief and in our willingness to console one another.
In the priest's homily, he shared stories of my aunt who actively participated in the life of the parish. She recognized that we are interconnected and called to serve one another. He described her as the go-to person when you needed something to get done because she was always ready to serve. She was the parish sacristan and she spent countless hours washing linens and preparing the logistical details for parish liturgies. Her service facilitated the interconnections within the parish community that grow as the community celebrates liturgy together. Though we did not know everyone gathered for the funeral, we were interconnected by our common connection to our sister in Christ.
The moments of my aunt's life were interconnected. Her baptism was connected to her confirmation and first communion. These sacraments nourished her as she lived her life, loved her family, and served her community. The interconnected moments of her life connected the many people she encountered in those moments. As we prayed at her funeral and as we celebrated the Feast of All Souls shortly after, I prayed there is a new soul in heaven. I imagine my aunt now interconnected with the communion of saints who remain interconnected with all of us as they intercede for us. We are all interconnected by our faith in the one God who created all things. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come when we will we again be reconnected in the flesh with our loved ones who have gone before us.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen!