For most of my life, Father’s Day has been something I’ve performed or processed, rather than outright celebrated. While my relationship with my stepfather and husband have always been joyful, my complicated and sometimes painful relationship with my dad has made it a challenging day to celebrate outright. When he died in mid-June four years ago, Father’s Day was excruciating. He died in Florida on a Wednesday. I arrived home early Saturday morning and by Sunday morning – Father’s Day – I knew the best place for me would be St. Stan’s.
So there I sat, listening to Father Clay, embraced by my good friend Lois, shattered and exhausted. Lifted up by the concerned looks of other parishioners. I don’t remember the homily that day – I just remember feeling so raw and so safe.
I feel less raw now. I’ve worked through a lot of the hurt, and I’ve settled into moments of feeling my dad’s love and feeling the sadness of his loss. Without complication or pain. Just sadness and love. I can be sad without suffering. Last night when I bumped into a recording of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (a song that was special to me and my dad), I listened to it, got a little teary, and moved through the grief back into my day. So, I got to spend a gorgeous day with my beloved and our sweet kiddos, chat a bit outside with my wonderful stepfather, and listen to a song “with” my dad. For me, it was a Happy Father’s Day.
Father Clay performed my dad’s funeral. He said a lot of wonderful things in that mass. The most important and healing was the idea that God continues to love and heal my dad, and that my love for and from my dad can continue to grow – even if the relationship on earth wasn’t always good. I don’t have the text he used that day, but this version posted on the St. Stan’s web site is a good summary of the message.
Father Clay’s Funeral Homily
Jesus knew loneliness too. Loneliness is a major part of what grief is all about. Remember on the cross before He died, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.” Jesus felt alone and rejected. His father, of course, had not abandoned Him; but at that moment, Jesus felt all of the pain and all of the anguish of total aloneness. And when we go to Jesus with our loneliness, our grief, our hurts—whatever it is we feel—we are going to someone who knows. And Jesus knows because Jesus felt them too. If all these things are present in Jesus, then they are certainly going to be present in us.
The grace of God and our faith does not take these human things away. Our faith does something beautiful for us though. Our faith enables us to look at death in a deeper and a truer kind of way. Our faith reminds us that death is not an ending of life, but a change…a very radical change to be sure.
___(name)___ has died and he/she will no longer live in our world anymore in the ways to which we are accustomed. That kind of living is gone forever; and because that is the truth, we must accept it. But that does not mean that ___(name)___ is no more, that the existence of this person whom we’ve know and loved has been wiped away. For at this very moment, God is in the process of raising him/her up to a new kind of living that will never end.
Jesus was the first. Jesus died, too, just as truly as ___(name)____ has died and each one of us will die one day. But Jesus rose from the dead. When we say Jesus rose from the dead, we do not mean that he came back to life. We mean something very much more than that. We mean that Jesus was changed and transformed from the kind of living we know here to the new and glorious life of His father. We believe that Jesus lives today.
Excerpted from Father Clay’s funeral homily