Today I attended my Grandmother’s funeral. It was a beautiful and magical early-winter day in North Dakota, with a temperature of about 5 degrees, abundant sunshine, fresh snow, and ice crystals in the air that sparkled like something out of Narnia. My Grandma passed away on Friday, December 5, after a brief illness; during the time she was in hospital I had every priest, every Catholic layperson I knew praying for her and for us. I had an entire monastery and a priory praying for her, and priests were saying Masses. Grandma received the Anointing of the Sick, the Viaticum, the Apostolic Pardon, and the Prayer of Commendation. Her death was a good death, about as good as anyone could ask for, and I know that it was because of the Providence of God and His Church that this came to pass in the way it did. I am extremely grateful to God and to all who helped.
Did I mention her funeral and burial occurred on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception? We had to get a dispensation from our Bishop to hold the funeral on a Solemnity, and the readings and propers of the Mass were those of the Solemnity. We heard about the Fall of Man in the first reading, the moment at which sin and its sister bodily death entered the world; and in the second reading we heard St. Paul talk about how we have become “holy and spotless” in Christ. The Gospel was about the conception of Christ, that is, Mary’s annunciation; but the day was all about Mary’s own sinlessness, her own immaculate conception in the womb of her mother. We heard about the beginning of sin–the Fall–and the beginning of the end of sin, Mary. There could hardly have been a better day to bury my beloved Grandma, who bore nine children in her womb and loved each and every one of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with the charity of Jesus himself.
Grandma, of course, was not the Virgin Mary; she committed sins, though I would be hard-pressed right now to recall any of them, and in any case they seem quite unimportant. I prayed that Grandma would go straight to Heaven, and I know she has. Heaven is what this life is all about, never forget it; our lives are bound to futility unless we have the anticipation of Heaven. We must want Heaven for ourselves and for our loved ones more than anything we want on earth. Aim high with your life; seek the things that are from above, and trust that even the impossible can be achieved. For He is Lord not of the dead, but of the living. May Edna Schefter rest in peace.