I went to a funeral today, and it was, without a doubt, an utterly heartwrenching experience.
The deceased was a young man of 27, who succumbed to leukemia after an arduous five years of illness, treatment, remission and return of disease. In what was no doubt a terrible irony, his father is an oncologist, and it is no doubt that the young man received the absolutely very best of care.
Even that was not enough. Alas.
There were at least 150 people there, perhaps more -- it was hard to tell, as it was quite crowded. The young man was native to this desert city, and so there was a multitude of old classmates, ranging from grade school through high school; in addition, roommates and classmates from college and from medical school (which the young man had begun before the return of his disease) had made the trip here. Colleagues of the young man's parents, and the parents' friends, were there, as were their fellow church members, and members from the ethnic community to which the young man belonged. So many people.
So many heartbroken people.
A dozen or so of his friends and classmates got up to speak about him, as did his sister, his wife, and even his mother-in-law. From each person's words, a picture of a tremendous young man, almost larger than life, appeared: he was described as a brilliant student and intellectual giant who challenged everyone around him to strive for their very best. A man who met his illness with good humor and vigor, and who continued to pursue his entrepreneurial goals and to care for everyone around him even in his most dire days. A devoted friend, brother, husband, son. A lover of truth, beauty, and goodness.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room. Yet there was laughter, too, as many people recounted tales of the young man's humor and sense of fun, and love of food, and mischievousness.
The celebrant who led the service spoke, as they so often do, about God and death and faith. As we sat and mulled over the too-brief life of the young man, as well as our own mortality and that of those we love, the celebrant said:
Death is not the final word. The final word is God.
All we can do, is wait for that final word. The young man has heard that word, and he is part of the word, as the word was part of him. I hope that word brings solace to those who knew the young man.
It is all a mystery.
Perhaps when we hear the final word, we will at last understand all of life's Why.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what
seizes your imagination, will affect
everything. It will decide what will
get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what
amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it
will decide everything.
-- Fr. Pedro Arrupe
Poem and art from the young man's memorial card.