Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elegies All Around

It has been an otherworldly, weird week in the valley violent death category. I'm not leading with that to prepare for a reading in cynicism; we just have our more than fair share of daily drive-by's, horrific crashes, whatnot. But one day after another found: a murder-suicide (girlfriend by boyfriend,) a teen unsuccessfully playing the "game" Russian Roulette (the newspaper quoted the boy's father declaring his son to have shown a promising future,) and an elderly, respected husband and wife knived and slain in their home, which happened to be the site of their massive marijuana cultivation/distribution operation!

I just returned to my office from the funeral Mass of the young lady murdered by her boyfriend. Our principal organist provided primary music ministry. I asked him he wanted some intinerent flute, so I added some obligatos and a couple of slower sonata movements. Basically, something simply called me to attend this particular funeral.

The mourners were a disparate lot, which is more the common experience nowadays than not, with suits and ties, T-shirts and spaghetti straps, tribal tattoos and plunging neckline cleavage....and very little audible evidence that any "catholics" were actually present. But, in light of the circumstances, the crowd was very somber and respectful.

I lightly regard funerals as a sort of hybrid "chickens home to roost" cum "come to Jesus" existential enterprise. I've done so many over forty plus (starting with my suicide dad's) that have covered the waterfront of human success and failure in this world that the only attitude I try to assume going into one is of resolution and hope. But I rejoice occasionally when surprised by grace.

In threes: One, a pall-bearer, strong-as-iron-carriage in RayBans, wiping a tear after a Bach "Siciliano"; Two, Miss Spaghetti straps, tight jeans, curves a-flowing over, with her eyes closed, intently responding "Lord, hear our prayer" during the general intercessions; and Third (the best) the deceased girl's mother adding a coda to a very brief eulogy in which she instructed all present "to keep God FIRST in your lives! When I ask my grandkids 'who's first in your love?' and they say 'Mommy and Daddy,' I tell them, 'No, GOD COMES FIRST!'"

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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