Sunday, July 10, 2011


It’s a bit morbid, perhaps, especially on this weekly celebration of the Resurrection, but doing my power-walking in St Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park (where I’ve run/walked for 20+ years in the summers) leads me to reflections on my own mortality (which we all share, needless to say, even when we steadfastly choose to ignore the fact). Driving to and from my sister’s house in Rockford yesterday on the Tri-State Toll-way, I-290, and the Northwest Toll-way only encourages this line of thinking!

Death is the great equalizer, the ecumenicist of existence, the arbiter of ethnic conflicts. In this cemetery, virtually side-by-side, one can find names like Kovacic, Rodriguez, Aylward, Moynihan, Steib, Matusek, or Cavallini. All with headstones marked either DOM or RIP or some other phrase of hope and prayerful love (“Together forever” for a married couple, for example). Some of these graves are full-fledged family mausoleums; others are monuments or simple headstones. And there is an entire section of cemetery-maintained mausoleums, as well.

So: how would I want my remains be dealt with? Or how will they (whether I want it or not) in fact be laid to rest? So many options—
Would I prefer interment or cremation, and why?
Would I want a mausoleum or a grave?
What would I want on the headstone that would mark who I have been and am?
Where would the funeral and burial take place?
Who would come? Who would preside/preach? What would be sung?

Bl Charles de Foucauld had a number of “mottos,” and one especially stands out as appropriate for my meditation: Live today as though you were going to die this evening. Many sacristies have a similar exhortation to priests: Celebrate this Mass as though it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.

Epitaphs are notoriously tricky, but I think that (beyond my name and dates) I would like this quote from St Monnica (yes, that’s how she spelled it; her tomb in Sant' Agostino church in Rome is pictured above), found in her son’s Confessions:
…all I ask is that wherever you may be, you will remember me at the Lord’s altar.

And in the long run, this is really enough, after all.

Enjoy the excerpt from Gabriel Faure's heavenly Requiem...

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