Persons, places and things: ‘They are in peace’

Barb Arland-Fye

My mother-in-law Marlene had been in poor health, but her sudden death Aug. 30 stunned her four children, including my husband, Steve, who thought his trip back home was to plan for her hospice care.
Marlene’s four children suspected that their mother had never gotten over the death of their father, Bill, four-and-a-half years ago and the acute loneliness she experienced may have contributed to her death.
Because Marlene died just before Labor Day weekend, Steve and his siblings decided to hold her funeral service that weekend since most of her closest relatives lived nearby. Steve’s sister Shar asked the priest who had celebrated Bill’s funeral Mass to celebrate the funeral service for their mother, who was Christian, but did not attend church services. They were grateful Father Bob Hart agreed to do so, with just two days’ notice. Bill and Fr. Bob had become friends following Bill’s return to the Catholic Church after 50-plus years away.
When the priest asked what Scripture readings the family requested, they weren’t sure. Steve said, “I know just who to ask,” and he called me. One of the perks of being editor of The Catholic Messenger is access to great resources. Several priests recommended that I choose readings from the Order of Christian Funerals. Msgr. John Hyland, vicar general for the Davenport Diocese, shared his book with me and in it I found beautifully fitting Scriptures.
The first, Wisdom 3:1-9, speaks to the suffering Marlene endured and the challenges she struggled to overcome throughout her adult life. She loved God, but I think she believed she had disappointed God. “But the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them … they are in peace … God tried them and found them to be worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings, he took them to himself …”
I chose the Twenty-third Psalm because it has always been a prayer of consolation and hope, and I chose John’s Gospel on the Last Supper Discourses because John delivers a profound message that all of us need to listen to time and again: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (Jn. 14:1-6).
Fr. Bob delivered a homily that wove these Scriptures lovingly into the story of Marlene and Bill, married 59 years. Father’s prayers at the committal service, and the way in which he conveyed them, deeply touched the family.
“I felt like my mom was at peace,” Steve told me. “Fr. Bob summed up their life and it brought me a sense of closure.”
Barb Arland-Fye

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