Yesterday I attended the funeral of my sister's Mother-in-law and long time family friend. It was one of the most beautiful and touching celebrations of life I have ever attended. I haven't stopped thinking about it all day.
My kids called her Grandma Rita. She was often present at family gatherings, hosted by my sister. I considered her a kindred spirit of sorts. She literally had twice as many children as me, and understood my journey of motherhood like no other. We often traded stories of other peoples reactions with a chuckle. Grandma Rita died last Tuesday at the age of 83.
I feel a bit out of place sharing too many details of Rita's life, seeing as I'm not family. However, there were parts of the Liturgy that deeply moved me, and that's what I hope to impart.
As the procession into the church began, so did my tears. Rita was the mother of 12 children, Grandmother to 33 and Great Grandma to 22. She was a sibling and aunt. The shear number of family present was testament to the legacy she leaves.
After her husband died, Rita made a quilt. This project helped her find peace and healing in a time of great sorrow. This same quilt was used as the pall on her casket. As Father shared yesterday, each stitch was sewn out of love, accompanied by countless prayers for her children and family.
During the homily, Father took a spool of thread and had one of Rita's grandchildren hold the end. He then unraveled the spool, encircling the entire family present in the pews with this thread. He explained that sewing and quilting were two of Rita's passions in life and brought her such joy. Let this thread symbolize the love and faith that Rita shared with each of them, binding them all together.
Two of Rita's sons sang He Walks With Me, as two of her granddaughters played their flutes. Another granddaughter gave the eulogy; a letter she wrote to Grandma Rita, thanking her for all of the life lessons she taught. Unexpectedly, another one of her sons got up and shared some memories of his mom. He expressed how she always let the kids be exactly who they were and loved them as they are.
Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, sunny, and slightly breezy day. The church was filled with flowers. I kept thinking that we could not have had a more perfect day as we said our farewells to such a lovely woman. Through life, and even in death, Grandma Rita continues to inspire me and challenge me to want to do better and be better. "Give her eternal rest O Lord. May light unending shine on her. Receive her soul, O holy ones; present her now to God, Most High."