Saying Goodbye To My “Big Sister”

by | Jan 20, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Even at 85, in our last phone call, I was her “little brother!”

Here is my Mindwalk saying goodbye at the Eucharist celebrating her Resurrection.

Why are we here?

Huh? That is a strange question! Not really.

We can be here for many reasons.

  • Pray for my sister’s eternal happiness
  • Say goodbye
  • Begin to make sense of our lives without her

It is probably all three in varying degrees depending on our relationships.

Let’s step back for a moment.

We are all on a journey and our journeys have a pattern and overlap more than we realize.

We are all on a journey to a “final frontier.”

While each of our journeys is different, there is a pattern we all share… growth through change. From conception to death. We are constantly in a process of changing. And there are well-established patterns to these changes.

Conception – with the cooperation of mothers and fathers the one we call God gave us the seed of life.

That seed was protected and nurtured in the womb… until that environment became constricting and we made the dangerous and painful passage from the womb,  a process called birth to independent life… of sorts.

Outside that womb, we quickly experienced we were totally dependent on our parents. But we continued to grow and to learn through the various stages of childhood.

During teen years, with much confusion, we realized we had our own lives to lead. We call that process “individuation.”

In the normal course of events, we chart our own life paths.

Finally, we stand before the true “final frontier” more or less aware that our lives are limited in space and time.

Some believe we will never breach that barrier. Death is the end of life.

Others see more!

Recurring pattern

Did you notice ? Dying and Rising. In each stage, we have to give up, or die, to what had been nurturing in order to grow. We died to the limitations of one stage of life to reach for a new and fuller form of life.

At each of these passages, or deaths, there is a mixture of rejoicing … and sorrow.

Just think of the pride and joy of parents at the graduation or wedding of their child. They rejoice for their child, … but they also feel the loss of the way things were.  A phase of their lives has ended… but the love does not. Their love changes and continues in a new way.

The “Final Frontier”

Now Christians believe that all break the barriers of space and time. We enter into the fulness of eternity that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard.” We believe the Word became flesh to show us that we breach that final frontier and pass to something eternal. Jesus died and rose to show us that is our eternal destiny.

Before going further let me offer a secular hint of what “eye has not seen.”

Steve Jobs was the founder of what has become a trillion-dollar business. As he lay dying surrounded by his loved ones his eyes seemed to go beyond them. In those last moments, his response to what he apparently saw… “Wow, Wow!”

Think about that!

Back to the question “why are we here?”

I have no doubt that Alice has entered into the “Wow of Eternity.” Today we celebrate her dying and rising to a life we can only imagine.

But our lives have also changed. We continue on this earth.

We grieve the loss of relating to her in the way we were used to. She is no longer available as she once was.

This was the experience of Jesus’ followers. They had to learn to relate to him in a new way.

He prepared them for this new relationship. “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me. “

That was not poetry.

Then, on the night before he died, he challenged them to see beyond the surface.

Do you understand what I have done? I have washed your feet. Wash one another’s feet! Do this in memory of me!”

Another secular hint. The hit movie “Pay it Forward” reversed the saying “Pay it back.” When someone gives you a gift, don’t try to pay it back. “Pay the gift forward!” Give that gift to someone else as a gift.

The gift my “big sister” gave her “little brother

Shortly before my ordination, she wrote me of her own experience of an awareness of being loved. “I am trying to help others become aware of being loved.” (Pay it forward?”)

Neither she nor I realized then how wonderfully she said the “Good News’ Jesus the Word made flesh embodied.

Close to 60 years after she wrote that to me, I now realize at a much deeper level how these words sum up what being a Christian, a Vincentian, and a priest is all about.

“Al”, thank you for those words that shaped my life. Help me to live them today!

Today we say our farewell to her presence among us in space and time. I thank her for those words. I will continue to try to live those words which so beautifully summed up Jesus’ life and dying request.

I will try, as she tried, to pay forward that awareness of being loved.

Let each of us honor her by living what she tried to live.

Let us, as she so often tried, change our love from what is in it for me to how can I help others realize they too are loved.

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk