Something happened today that is so human that it can only come from G0d. For a long time now, the Voice from my Kitchen and I have been following Keith Olbermann, commentator featured on MSNBC. For a long time now we have lived alongside him, through the protracted illness and eventual death of his father to the time when he announced his departure from the commentator's chair that he had held for eight years. He did announce also that unlike some of the experiences that he had in the past when he had about thirty seconds to pack up and leave, this time he had been granted the time to bid the audience good-bye in proper form.
Since the death of his father, on every Friday, Keith had been reading, on air, short stories taken from James Thurber. He would read a story at the end of the program just as he had done for his father through the last days of his agony. The day of his departure from MSNBC was a Friday, so he announced that as part of his adieu, he would indeed read a final time from James Thurber. He read the story about the "Dog Who Knew Too Much." Actually, a story that I am sure he chose because of the parable nature of it as applied to Keith's own personal situation.
That is but the introduction to the point of this reflection.
The Voice from my Kitchen remembered the last times of her mother and compared what Keith had done with and for his father and she suffered a wave of guilt for not having been more present to her mother at a similar time. She told me that she remembers her mother every single day. She said that she doesn't feel well about the fact that she did not do enough for the suffering lady, just as Keith had done for his father. I have tried to console her on a number of occasions, but I can see that my offerings have not hit the mark.
My experiences with death of parents and other "nexts" of kin is quite different. Except for one of my sisters, no one has had any need of my services. Not one of them was around for more than a few seconds between life and death. That doesn't leave much time to develop a lot of guilt. But it does offer equal opportunity to experience and cultivate memories. I have two favorites: my maternal grandfather and my father. I have lived my life experiencing daily mental and emotional encounters with these two people. 50 years for the one and 63 or so years for the other. It's like yesterday, and I wouldn't give it up. Now, believe it or not I actually had an inspiration about that tonight when after our night prayer, Voice from my Kitchen expressed her sense of guilt again. Without thinking I said, "Guilt is perhaps not the proper disposition to have about your mother's presence in your memory. Your mother's presence to you is not meant to weaken you through guilt, but to strengthen you through memorialization. It is like the mission of Jesus to His disciples to 'do this in memory of me.' it is the strength that we get from God who keeps Himself in our minds and hearts every moment of every day. The presence of your mother is God's message to you through her that the Grace of doing His Will is constantly with you. Think about it."
I might be all wet, but its not from tears spilled at funerals. My memories of my forebears, all of them, some great, some not so great, are God's light shining in my soul. I have my weaknesses and my downright nasty side, close to the surface. That's not God's fault and it's not from my forebears not having tried to make me right in every way. I know, and He knows, and I believe that they know that they still have a lot of work to do on this particular clay pot. Why else would I still be here? He keeps trying to get me ready for the walk in the garden. Why else would He give me the grace of His constant presence through these dearest of the dear God fearers in my life?
I didn't say all of this to her. I'll send her the link to this and let her turn it over in her own mind and heart. Bottom line, this is a story about what we Catholics call the Communion of Saints. It is the greatest assurance that we have that once life is given, it is never taken away. God gives us the grace of memory to strengthen us along the earthly portion of the way. Let us not weaken that great gift by burying ourselves in unrelenting guilt.
All of the above is just one more reason why I don't want to catch you crying at my funeral. If I do, I won't let you remember me.