Faith, Ministry, Poetry

At the Funeral Home

Father R took the service.
They held it in the funeral home,
Because a twice-divorced Catholic
May not be buried from Church,
If I am told the truth.

Tiny and neatly garbed and combed
She lies in an open casket
Her daughters, weeping and smiling,
Her son stoic and hospitable,
Her years of illness ended.

Multiple Sclerosis—
She had M.S., or it had her,
From her twenties until last week.
At seventy-one, cancer came
And left a shell behind.

A Sister reads the Epistle,
Words about the tents in which we live
The heavy burden of tent-living,
The desire to put on bodies that never die,
A tentmaker’s words from long ago

And I am thinking, Father R,
Make the most of this
Do her credit in your speaking
For her body did groan so long.
Now she is free from it.

He doesn’t go there. His words
are kind, but fumbling, mumbled,
And I want more, for her;
I want more for all of them:
A clearer way of saying.

Just as I am drifting
Into feeling terribly superior
He stops me with his thoughts
On those familiar words from John—
Do not let your hearts be troubled.

On all such days I read them,
I try to speak them well, invest them
With such surety that comfort must be found!
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God. Believe in me.”

And Father R. says, “That is hard.
It’s hard not to let this trouble our hearts.
Maybe we need to let God know it.
Maybe we need to ask for God’s help.”
And my heart says, “Amen.”

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