Do Not Be Afraid

Both my parents are dead.  My father died in 2001 and my mom in 2008.  Death is tragic. Even when expected it’s rarely welcome, especially for those who must live with the absence of people they love.  But death can come with surprises.

When my Mom’s ashes were buried next to my Dad at The Beaufort National Cemetery the second a rectangular piece of sod was dropped over the dirt and a soldier tamped it down six jets roared across the sky overhead.  831_LandscapeIt wasn’t a planned moment.  The flyover was not in honor of my mom (or Dad); it was a fluke.  And yet, I’ll never forget the sight and sounds – sod being thumped, the roar of jet engines, and six jets with trails, flying in formation over our heads.  The six Quigley children stood in awe at the sight, each with their own symbolic jet… cry but carry on!

A few months earlier, at the funeral for my mom held in the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Cincinnati, Ohio, I went to the sanctuary an hour early to bring the urn that contained my mom’s ashes and to pray.    I placed the ashes and a picture of my mom on a small table and then knelt in the first pew.  There was a nun practicing the music we had chosen for the service on the organ and the priest who would celebrate the funeral mass sat in the pew beside mine saying prayers of his own.  At one point I heard my Mom’s voice:  “Jimmy, never be afraid to proclaim the promise of eternal life… it’s all true.”

As a person whose vocation involves spending a fair amount of time with the dying and with those who mourn, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a service for a friend’s mother.  The service was held at the wonderful home where Caroline spent the last three years of her life.  Family and friends heard prayers, read poems and offered remembrances.  It was a beautiful and fitting celebration for a woman who’s spirit and community was never lived out in the church.  One of the poems that was read is called It Is Enough, by Anne Alexander Bingham:

It Is Enough

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it

The last line of A Prayer of St. Francis tells us this:  “That it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  It is enough, and It’s all true… do not be afraid.

Happy Monday,


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6 Responses to Do Not Be Afraid

  1. says:

    Thank you!

  2. Linda V says:

    Thank you, Jim. That is beautiful and seems so true.

  3. Maria Estefania says:

    Thank you, Jim.

  4. Elinor Constable says:

    Jim: beautiful. I have mentioned how my husband died peacefully but a determined secular humanist. A week before he died he told me he felt “surrounded by love”. When I told my son that even though it was going to be cut short he had had a good life he said “and the last four years have been the best”. So, yes, death brings surprises.

  5. yalilla says:

    Jim, thank you for noticing the patterns in these synchronicities and passing them along to us. We need to hear these things and see patterns like them in our lives. They’re there but we don’t notice them unless we learn to.

  6. Jo says:

    The Hebrew word, part of the Haggadah at Passover, is “dayenu”… it would have been enough…. more than imagined or deserved, everything else is sheer blessing…
    I have to say dayenu to myself several times a day.

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