The bishop’s miter gently swayed from left to right in front of me as he intoned the Salve Regina.
The unexpected yet familiar tune and the tightening of my mother’s grip on my arm awakened me… mater misericordiae.
The procession progressed slowly down the path as the hope for a better tomorrow was condemned and as the joy of life was lost. After emerging from a slumber of unbelief, my eyes were opened to the reality of death by participating at the funeral… vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
The words of the bishop preached earlier resounded in my mind, “Jesus wept when Lazarus died, and we too must weep the death of loved ones. However, we cannot forget that Jesus also raised Lazarus from the dead, and he will do likewise for all of us.” Tears were streaming from my eyes as my mother turned around searching for my brother-in-law who was trailing behind in the diamond-shaped crowd that followed us. The tears of the mourners behind stirred my heart as they made love for my father tangible as their cries were lifted to heaven… ad te clamamus exules filii Hevae.
Ahead of the bishop the sweat and tears of eight men dripped on the ground mixing with dirt on the path creating a trail of dark circles for all to follow. The weight of the wood and the distress of their hearts accentuated the sorrowful way they marched, bringing about an example worthy to emulate. Love for their friend and patron who was now dead gave them the strength to carry the casket reverently and solemnly from the chapel to the hole in the ground where the body will lay until a cry in a loud voice will say, “Humberto, come out” and the dead man will come out. Before the casket, leading the procession, were children carrying flowers to toss later into the hole along with their tears before the gardeners of the cemetery would fill the artificial valley created by shovels, restoring the ground to its original undisturbed state and rendering it adequate for eternal sleep… Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
I moved slowly as the sun pounded down upon me with its powerful rays. The three o’clock heat of the summer day made itself felt on my face. The bright green grass that stretched for several yards around me, the soaring palm trees that lined up the main path of the cemetery between stone benches, the vibrant petals of flowers entrusted by visitors to accompany their beloved dead, and the burgundy, yellow, and maroon leaves of the small trees that spotted the grounds welcomed the sun, and in turn invited me to smile and admire their delicate beauty. On this holy ground the body of my father will remain until the end of time. As dozens of faithful employees had lined up at the entrance of the cemetery to welcome the hearse arriving from the wake, the holy saints of God and His Mother will pray for him and welcome him into heavenly glory … Eia ergo advocata nostra.
The sorrowful mother wept as her son was taken down the via dolorosa. Her elegant, puffy, white hair, her large piercing green eyes, her swollen legs with feet that fit tightly into black shoes, her ailing bones being consumed by disease, and her pain of losing her only son made her a figure to be admired and revered. When he breathed his last, she valiantly stood next to him and aided the women present to dress him, to prepare him for proper burial. She wept for her son knowing she would see him alive again soon… Iesum benedictum fructum ventris tui nobis post hoc exilium ostende.
The procession came to an end. All gathered around the casket and supplications to the Mother of God were voiced by the bishop. Her loving mantle of light covered us as the beginning of the end began. The moment anticipated by every Hail Mary prayed arrived. The beauty of the hour of death. Death had lost its sting, for hope had not been condemned since a better tomorrow will come when the dead will rise and all will stand before God. Neither had joy been lost, since as the casket was lowered and tears flooded my eyes, the consoling voice of her son whispered sweetly into my ear, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, shall live.” O Clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.
[I wrote this in 2005 for the first anniversary of my dad’s death]
Pictures are mine, all rights reserved.