By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
One of the most powerful memories of my trip to the Soviet Union in 1972 was a visit to an Orthodox church on the feast of the Assumption (they called it the Feast of the Dormition of Mary).
The basilica was crowded with people lighting tapers in front of the beautiful icons. Chants came from behind the sanctuary screen.
Worshippers wandered around the church.
Suddenly, the main doors opened and a funeral cortege entered. There were four or five relatives carrying the corpse of an elderly woman on a pallet. They lit a candle and said prayers.
Minutes later, they went out to bury their mother. I had a vivid vision in my mind that the burial of Mary, Mother of Jesus, could have been very much like that.
Several years ago, there was a picture on Facebook about a male Eastern bluebird which had been struck by a vehicle and it lay dead in the highway. His mate kept coming back to the lifeless bird as cars zipped back and forth.
I also remember Shelby, an old dog and her friend Paloma, who was a much younger puppy. They had spent many good times together. But one night Shelby died a peaceful death in the living room and her owners covered her with a small rug to await a morning burial. In the middle of the night, Paloma went from her mattress in the bedroom to go and sleep beside the body of her companion with her head nestled against the rug.
I thought of these incidents as I officiated at a funeral Mass on the eve of the month of November. This month is the time when we remember our beloved deceased relatives and friends. During the Mass, five of the sons of the deceased woman got up and gave a tearful salute to their mother. The five hugged each other as the oldest read from a prepared text.
Along with the birds and the animals, we humans need to share rituals with each other to make some deeper meaning of our grief. It helps to have others there, not to say facile words, but to give a loving presence.
When we fold up our earthly tent, it is the time to ask the Good Shepherd to lead our loved ones to eternal joy and everlasting life.
Father Timothy Gollob is the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.