Sitting Up With

Family members had started gathering for Christmas dinner when the call came from one of my brothers-in-law that our mother-in-law had passed away. He was at the nursing home with his wife and my wife.

Although we all knew the end was near, there was still a feeling of shock and sadness among the assembled children and grandchildren. No one knew what to say, so I opened an app called Laudate on my smartphone and read aloud two prayers for the deceased.

Several of us drove to the nursing home. We had what amounted to a private wake while we waited for a hospice nurse to arrive and officially pronounce the death. She used a stethoscope to confirm there was no breathing or heartbeat.

While we sat together in my mother-in-law’s room, we began to discuss what to do next. Someone would have to call the funeral home and the church. The funeral home said they would be there in two hours unless we wanted more time.

The conversation turned to plans for the funeral Mass. We all agreed that my wife and son should sing. We suggested that three of the granddaughters serve as lectors. The best candidate to offer a reflection at the end of Mass would be my wife’s brother Joe, who lives in Guatemala and works as a missionary. He had flown to Virginia for his mother’s 90th birthday but had already returned to Guatemala to be with his family for Christmas. In Joe’s absence, the four sisters suggested that I take on the responsibility of delivering the reflection.

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