Saturday, June 20, 2009
Gone Too Soon
This morning my sister and I attended a memorial Mass for a woman we had met only once, some 25 years ago. Why, you ask, would we go to such a Mass? Robbie was married to our cousin, Jeff. We are originally from Cincinnati, but our family was the only one to move away. All of the aunts, uncles and cousins still reside in Cincinnati. Except for Jeff. He did a stint in St. Louis in the early 80's, which is where he met Robbie. She had grown up here, but Jeff's job took them many places over the years. Shortly before Robbie died, they had moved to Las Vegas, where they hoped to stay for quite some time. Cancer had other plans for Robbie, who battled breast cancer for the past couple of years. The cancer spread to her lungs, and at age 52 she passed away. Her wish was to be cremated, and Jeff complied with that wish. A memorial Mass was held in Cincinnati earlier this week so that Jeff's family could give their support to him, but he also wanted to have one here so that her childhood and early work friends could say good-bye. As the only family in attendance, he asked that we sit in the front pew with him. It was rough, and sitting next to Jeff I could feel him fighting his tears. The priest made a wonderful analogy during his sermon, as he was following up on the reading of how Jesus will be waiting for us to take us home. He asked us to imagine a child in the womb. If that child could talk and ask the question about what life was like on the outside, you might answer that there is a beautiful blue sky overhead. The child would have no way of understanding what a blue sky is. Or you might say that there are majestic mountains here, and again the child would have no concept of what a mountain looks like. So it is that Jesus cannot explain to you what life is like in heaven - we simply don't have the capacity to understand what it will look like. Very nicely put...
Because my sister and I didn't really know Robbie, we did okay during the service until the very end when a man went up to do a last reading. Jeff whispered to me that "now comes the hard part". What the man read was a tribute to Robbie written by Jeff. I put my arm around him as it the words expressed to all of us the depth of his love for his wife, and the tears streamed down his face and mine. The service ended with the song "On Eagle's Wings", which had also been sung at my beloved mother's funeral. Well, that was it for my sister and me. I clung tightly to her hand, and Jeff's arm embraced us both.
I'm saddened now that I did not have the opportunity to get to know this courageous, loving woman who brought such joy to those lucky enough to know her. My heart aches for my cousin who must try to rebuild his life without her. My brother also lost his wife to cancer at the age of 47, leaving him to raise three small children on his own. I understand to a certain extent what lies ahead for Jeff, though he and Robbie did not have any children. I hope the vision of Jesus walking Robbie to a better place helps him deal with a future of her no longer walking by his side.