joy and fond remembrance

Life is a precious gift on lease to us by God which owns but the briefest presence among the living. Neither its beginning nor its ending is within our power to determine or control. It is the living of it that lingers beyond its ending, which brings long forgotten memories to the fore. We can but hope that all which will be remembered of us will bring full measure of a life well-lived for above all else we wish to be remembered well.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Maya Anjelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” and there is great truth in what she wrote. We each have our own journey to travel, some walk along but the shortest path, while others find their way home only after many tortuous and difficult miles. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “Life is a journey, not a destination” and that is equally true, but I would offer that a journey without a destination lays waste to the life of any traveler. Wandering aimlessly serves no purpose and ultimately gets you nowhere.

It is neither our words nor deeds but the poverty of spirit that inscribes the memories upon which we will be remembered. Neither wealth nor fame will bear witness beyond the grave. What will be remembered long after journey’s end may well be but this brief epitaph: “When asked to give, all was given.”

Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven[1] and we most often take this to include those who are without wealth or other worldly goods. But Jesus was admonishing all of us, regardless of our station in life that it was to those who gave all that they could to help others, it was to those who impoverished their own spirit in order to nourish and provide for those in greater need, who would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

We should remind ourselves often of what God told his people through the prophet Isaiah, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,…”[2] for truly we have no way of knowing what he has in store for us. Consider how often we, through happy circumstance, encounter a soul somewhere along the way who fills an emptiness, lifts our spirits, shares a burden, or brings new life into the world?

I have met death many times in my life and this I have learned from those encounters: the loss will be the worst of it and the missing will be indelibly etched upon your hearts but know as well that joy and fond remembrance will endure long beyond the pain and sorrow that you feel today.

Bernie, like so many of what Tom Brokaw has called “The Greatest Generation”, was born in a time of great hardship and deprivation, a time in which so many had so little, and yet so many found the courage and the mettle to survive and prosper and to make the world a better place for those of us who followed. Her life was not without its difficulties, certainly bearing and raising six children would offer proof of that. But forged from the hardships of the Great Depression and tempered by the courage demanded by the conflict of a world at war, she, like my parents, and so many others of her generation, shared those common values of a deep reliance and faith in God, a fierce and stubborn independence, and an unfailing willingness to lend a hand to those in need.

Age did not define nor could it diminish Bernie in any way for she would simply not allow it. After all, she had to find her own way, learning how to make it on her own while raising six children. The proof of her success is visible in those, who because of her determination, self-reliance, and unwavering faith in God, come here today to express their gratitude and to mark her passing.

Of Bernie I have but fond and happy memories of a friend. She always had a twinkle in her eye and a smile upon her lips whenever we would meet. Her deep raspy voice never failed to surprise me for it seemed so far out of place with her gentle presence and warm demeanor. And I will miss her. Yet, I am filled with comfort with her passing, for I know that she is now in the loving arms of God.

For her children and their families I will offer but this brief monition: before her passing you did not concern yourself with what you did or said whenever she was out of sight or range of hearing, but know for certain that now that she is no longer here among us, she will be watching and not only will she see what you are doing and hear what you are saying, she will know what’s in your hearts. But also know that she will always be there when you need her.

Bernie has moved away. She has been given the keys to a new place reserved for her by God in heaven. And I have it on the best authority that she has a bowling alley in the basement.

Note: I delivered this homily at the funeral Mass of a dear friend, Bernie Vogel Sharkey Wright, who changed her residence at the tender young age of 91. She was a very special lady, and I mean that in the finest sense of the word. We will truly miss her.

[1] Mt 5:3.
[2] Is 55:8.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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