Alive in Christ — Funeral for Lila O’Brien, 94

On behalf of Christ the King parish I wish to offer to you, Lila’s family and friends, the sympathies and prayers of this community. I also want to give special recognition, praise and thanks to Lila’s children, who provided her with around the clock companionship and care, allowing her the blessing of dying at her home with her loved ones.

In these last months, I had the privilege to visit Lila at home on two occasions. The first time I came, I anointed her with holy oil, to strengthen her for the share in Christ’s passion which laid before her. The second time some of her family and I gathered and pray with her the prayers of commendation for the dying.

When I ask people about Lila they tell me that she was friendly and feisty. That she was ever active and always on the go. That she was funny, a bit goofy, and unpredictable. They tell me that she was very independent, yet also very personable. Lila was a neat lady. Let us not forget that she remains a neat lady.

It is the habit in our culture to refer to people who have died using the past tense. For instance people say, “So and so was such a loving person,” and they say the person “would have really enjoyed being with us today.” Even if unintentionally, these words implies that the dead love no longer and that they are no longer aware of us.

Yet after death, a person who is loving in this life becomes still more loving. It seems quite likely that each of us will be aware of our own funerals, just as I believe that Lila is aware of our gathering today.

Though we fall into speaking of the departed in the past tense, we do not really believe that death is the end. Dying does not annihilate those we love. As Jesus said, ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.’

Nor does dying make a person less fully themselves than what they were before. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” And as Jesus said in the gospel, to the good thief crucified with Him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Lila has passed on, but if you would like to talk to her, just go ahead and pray. She will hear you and she will appreciate it. And be sure to pray for her too.

In her years on earth, Lila did not like to travel far from home and she didn’t take long trips, unless the promise of a casino jackpot awaited her. But now Lila is making the human soul’s furthest trip, the journey to full and heavenly presence of God. She has an incredible jackpot to motivate her, the promise of supreme and perfect happiness, however receiving this reward is not a matter of luck. It requires the purification of her soul and the help of our prayers, so offer this morning’s mass and your continued prayers to God for her.

Lila has died, but Lila is not dead. If the woman we remember has changed it is only to become more perfectly who she really is, in all her unrepeatable uniqueness. Lila was, and she remains, a friendly, funny and feisty lady.

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