I got word from my sister that mom’s memorial service will be in June. The years, the geographical distance, and the circumstances make it all seem a bit unreal at some moments. I think we’ll be driving–a far more manageable car trip than from the state of Washington.

Mom had this snapshot in her collection dated “3-23-47,” and it seems astonishing in some ways. 74 years ago? Really? She was almost the age of the young miss in this image. I cannot wrap my mind around that one–my mother was the last of her generation in the family to die. Mine is next.

Those high heels make her and my aunt look like they’re floating or jumping. My mother hated having her picture taken, so this piece is a rarity. Mom would likely have been bothered my sister shared it on social media last month. 

I wonder about the circumstances of the picture: what was so funny or happy about two sisters-in-law that chilly Spring day? My dad and one of his brothers might have been at the camera, making light of the shared good times.

I was reading this piece at PrayTell, thinking about the liturgy in the works for 74.25 years after this picture. Mom wasn’t Catholic, and my sister is connected with a Lutheran church, so I have no expectations about what sort of worship it will be. Her parish has a praise band, so I suspect it will be a bit different than usual Lutheran fare. When Dad passed away in the 90s, my sister’s church gave us (mainly her) free reign on designing a liturgy. She insisted I plan it, inserting about a half-dozen of her favorite Catholic songs. There seemed hardly enough room for Scripture or ritual, and I remember very little, except for the assistance of a handful of musical friends.

Space has been left for me to play, even to plan things. But I’m doubtful I will do much of that. Sometimes, I need the time to pray, ponder, and grieve. Even when good relationships are put on pause for death. 

From that link above:

The individualism that is common in many Western societies is now as much at home in Ireland as anywhere else. In the interviews one lady said that she wanted a funeral that would be “a great memorial of me.”  Another gentleman answered the question if he would have a religious funeral with “God, no.”

I don’t think individualism is the only problem. I don’t think a funeral industry that sanitizes death is helpful. Wakes at home are now outsourced to plush, carpeted reception rooms that sometimes cater the meal too. Maybe it’s nice to have other people do the baking and serving, but homes used to be where people could share the grief. If not the irreligious memories and comments, the food from another grieving kitchen. Maybe the impromptu songs, speaking of which …

Some wanted Country, some Pop, some Irish traditional music. But no one wanted the exclusively Christian music that the vast majority of funerals would have had as little as ten years ago.

Ireland’s different from the US, but maybe not too different. Maybe it’s a genre issue–people feeling more at home with contemporary sounds. The words, here and there, might be important. As musicians have drifted out of church staffs, maybe all some parishes can offer is sacred music done poorly. And if there’s a choice between music done well or done badly, door number one doesn’t seem too bad to the uninitiated. I’m not taking number two, that’s for sure.

Maybe more on this later as I reflect on the situation.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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