Ken and I started our week by attending the very low-key funeral of a dear friend from our church. As I stood in the pew watching the priests process to the altar, it occurred to me that we are beginning the week with a funeral and ending it with a wedding. I thought to myself, how appropriate.
Though many see death as the ultimate ending, we Catholics see things differently. We celebrate funerals. We don’t have them. We don’t host them. We don’t do them. We celebrate them. A funeral is a celebration, not of one’s life (though we certainly do that, too), but of one’s passing on to the next life. Death is not seen an end but a new beginning. Jesus told us, “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” (Jn 14:2-3).
I have spent the past twenty-four years trying to prepare my daughters for the next life they will live. Yes, I’ve tried to teach them about salvation, about following the teachings of the Church, about striving to get to Heaven. But I’ve also tried to teach them what it is to be a good wife and mother. I’ve not always been a good example but I’ve tried. I want them to be prepared for this next phase, for the creating of a new life, and for the expectations they and their husbands should have of each other and their lives together.
Just as our friend, Rob, spent his life preparing for the new life he has now entered, all children spend years preparing for their next life as adults. Marriage is, much like accepting Christ and His Church, a dying to self. That is not to say that spouses are to completely disregard their own health and well-being, but we are to love as Christ loved, with a love that puts others first. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13: 34). That is the love of Christ, the love of Heaven, the love we are to have for others, especially those closest to us. Eve came from the rib of Adam. He declared her, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Husband and wife, joined together by God, one flesh and one blood. His equal, his partner and companion. They are no longer separate creatures. Together, they form a new being, a new life.
I am a huge fan of the movie, Steel Magnolias. I’ve seen it too many times to count. Over Labor Day Weekend, I had Rebecca and Anthony watch it with me. There are so many lessons to take away from that movie. I hope that they took away from it that the truest and deepest form of love is to love like Christ – to give your life for another. Shelby gave her life to her son. M’Lynn gave her kidney, a willingness to give her life, to Shelby. Annelle worked very hard to give her life to the Lord. The women, even when they didn’t like each other, were always there for each other, loved each other, rooted for each other, and supported each other.
Near the end of the movie, at Shelby’s funeral, Annelle tells M’Lynn that she is going to name her baby after Shelby. M’Lynn’s response was, “That’s as it should be.” She recognized that people come and go in our lives, each bringing something we needed at the time. And she recognized that death is not an ending. It’s a beginning. Whether in this life or the next, somehow, death has the capability to lead to life.
We began this week with a funeral. We will end it with a wedding. That’s how it should be.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).