The Monday morning after my sister’s funeral, my husband and I cleaned house together. Though dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing bathrooms aren’t usually sources of joy for us, that morning’s encounter with housekeeping was different. As we moved from room to room, we shared our recollections of my sister’s funeral and the celebration of her life that followed in our home afterward. Each table that I dusted brought to mind those who’d gathered nearby to eat together and to comfort one another with their memories of Cecele. My sister knew about her funeral arrangements and she knew that a party of sorts would follow at our house. Perhaps one of her “welcome home” gifts in the hereafter was the wonderful weather that allowed our guests to spill onto the patio and porch that afternoon. As I folded tablecloths and rearranged chairs, I couldn’t help smiling as I thought of Cecele. “I don’t really mind cleaning up today,” I told her, “because I’m doing this for you.”
When Mike and I finished our cleaning, I determined that this was a small price to pay considering all that my sister had been through. The truth is that I wasn’t paying a price at all. I would have washed the kitchen floor a second time if I thought this exercise would insure that the joy and consolation I found among our loved ones at Cecele’s funeral and luncheon remained with me forever. I would have cleaned the entire house again if it would insure that Cecele realizes just how much she continues to be loved and missed. Apparently, my sister is very much aware because an image of her smiling face refuses to leave me to my writing at the moment. Now, what was I going to write next?
I share my adventure in cleaning with you because the joy found in this work is nothing short of miraculous. My husband and I suffered greatly –along with everyone else who loves Cecele– through her illness and passing. It was frustrating and agonizing to be unable to fix this for her. Though we visited and spent hours at her side, the outcome of my sister’s illness remained the same. Still, we did what we did because no one who took a place at her bedside could be replaced one any of the rest of us. Each of us brought something that only he or she could bring.
In the end, when our care-giving was no longer needed, each of us took on the practical and sometimes mundane tasks that would result in the life-giving, prayerful and consoling gatherings through which we mourned together. Because each of us did his or her part, each of us left with a measure of comfort and joy we would otherwise not have found. As for me, watching those who gathered for my sister’s funeral and the luncheon afterward was a gift in itself. In spite of our personal sorrow and loss, those present consoled one another as only they could.
I find myself most grateful as I write today because God has gifted me with a glimpse of Divine Joy. I found amazing consolation and gladness among my sister’s family and friends who filled up my house on her behalf. I can only imagine the wonder in the Almighty’s heart when we fill up God’s house to pray and then go off to minister to one another as only we can. It seems to me that I have much more to be grateful for than I thought because this phenomenon has repeated itself again and again in my own life and at my parish church through the efforts of the good people around me.
This is Ministry Weekend in my parish. The events of my sister’s illness and passing compel me to share the amazing benefits of setting aside a bit of our time to minister to others. It is sometimes the smallest act of kindness that brings the greatest gift to a fellow soul in need. If you attend my church, please, look through the St. Paul the Apostle Parish Ministry Directory. Browse through the various ministries listed and find one that strikes your fancy. If you’re not sure that you can take something on just now, call the contact person anyway to see if there is a small way in which you can help out. You can also stop at the prayer intention table and select an intention to pray for during the coming year. If you belong to another church or temple and have been in need of a little nudge to become more involved, please consider yourself “nudged” today. If you’re an “independent agent” who is not affiliated with a faith community, you are not off the hook. You possess gifts that only you can bring to your community and you are very much needed. Find a good cause and get involved!
I can’t begin to tell you how happy that house full of my sister’s mourners made me that day. Wouldn’t you like to join me and the rest of God’s kids in filling up the life of someone in need?
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved