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Getting Good at This: Losing a Loved One


Odd, what some people say when offering their condolences.  In an attempt to say something meaningful, they stumble out what they think is kind and well-intentioned but sounds rude instead.  At my mother’s funeral, one stark comment that stayed with me was, “You’re getting good at this.”
Good at this?  What did that mean? Losing my family? Managing a funeral? Penning eulogies? I would rather be good at anything else but this. I know those who said this to me did not mean it to be rude, so instead of being offended, I try to understand why they think I am “good at this.”
I was in my early 30’s when my grandfather was dying from cancer.  In their grief, my grandmother, mother, and aunt hadn’t thought about getting him a priest to give him “Anointing of the Sick,” what non-Catholics like to call Last Rites. I called my mother’s parish priest and he came immediately. My grandfather died soon after. I like to think he found comfort in this rite.
A few years later, I did the same for my dear grandmother.  As a matter of fact, I got her two priests.  One came immediately after she was admitted into the hospital after her heart attack, and the second one came later in the day.  At her bedside, I joked with her though she was in a coma.  She probably thought we heathens had forgotten our obligation and she would face eternity without her last rites. She too passed away soon after the second priest left, probably relieved that we hadn’t forgotten our Catholic upbringing.
Years later I did the same for my dad, my grandson, and my brother.  I asked for priests or chaplains to come pray with us so we could keep God and His angels close as our dear ones met their ends on this earth. I know it gives those left behind comfort for I have seen the sense of relief prayer gives them in their grief and loss.
Yes, I am getting “good at this.”  I could see my mother was losing her battle here on earth the day she died, and as difficult as it was to be strong and grown up and resolute, it would have been unforgiveable to be anything but.  If I truly believe in Jesus Christ and life everlasting, then I had to be like Him at that moment: committed to my task and mission, kind and compassionate, afraid but brave. I only hope that when my time comes, someone does the same for me.   

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