Anyone who reaches 92 years, as Jack Frost did, leaves a trail of stories. Many at his funeral December 12, 2018 in Spring Lake, New Jersey, had their stories, some more than others. Jeannie, his wife of 67 years, had plenty to tell. They had 7 children, 20 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren. St. Margaret’s church was filled with his family and friends.
The Irish poet W.B. Yeats tells a life story, surely his own, in a poem called “What then?” After each stage of life the question’s raised– ‘What then?’ What comes after this? The poem ends with the same question, “What then?”
What then? What comes after this? That the question we have, hoping for an answer, as we bring someone who has died to church. Is there an answer in this place of faith?
Faith is not seeing or science or reason. Faith is God’s way of speaking to us. As Christians we believe he spoke to us through Jesus Christ, and so we look for the signs we have here. Signs don’t say it all, of course, sometimes they’re not presented very well on our part, sometimes we’re not ready to see them. Even so, God speaks through them .
As we brought Jack’ body to the church the other day, the signs were there. The first thing we did was to bless him with holy water and place a white cloth on him as a sign of his baptism. What does that sign say?
Some days before he died, I visited Jack in hospice at Jersey Shore Hospital. HIs wife, five of their children and some of their children were all crowed into the room. A friend came in with a small bottle of holy water from a Marian shrine in Maryland. Jack was drifting in and out. “Jack, I’d like to bless you with this water,” I said, “ to remind you that God made you his child at your baptism and gave you gifts. You certainly used those gifts well over the years. Just look around this room. You did a good job.”
At that, everyone in the room started to clap “Good job, Dad. A good job.” Jack’s face lit up in a big smile. He was leaving this life to applause. I could still hear it as we brought his body into church. “Welcome, good and faithful servant,” the Lord must have said.
“Love makes one little room an everywhere” an English poet wrote. Jack had a great devotion to the Mass. It wasn’t something he had to do, a thing of duty; he wanted to be there. Instinctively, he understood what the poet said: “Love makes one little room an everywhere.” At his funeral Mass we brought him close to the altar in church.
“Love makes one little room an everywhere.” Every once in awhile when Jack wasn’t able to get to church and I was able, my sister and I would go over to the Frost’s to have Mass. Only the four of us, in a little room, but the world of everywhere was there. The world of the past, the world now, their kids’ world, even the world of politics somehow was in that one room. That’s what the Mass does: it brings the world of everywhere to God through Jesus Christ.
As we gathered in St. Margaret’s church for the Mass on Wednesday a wonderful grace seemed to settle on us all. A communion of saints was there, the saints now in glory, the saints struggling below. All together, we were drawn into that mystery.
When I left the dinner after the funeral Jeannie’s kids were all around their mother, their arms around each other, singing songs they sang as kids. “Good job, Jack.”