Monday, March 05, 2012

Random Thoughts on a Requiem

Dad left us two weeks ago today. I have yet to complete the adjustment to normal life, having come down with a fever over the weekend. I sleep most of the day.

After the burial, we finalized the design for the grave marker. We were told we could add a maximum of four words.

“I will go to the altar of God.” Psalm 42(43) is inspired by a people who long to be delivered from exile among the wicked, to enter the temple of Jerusalem, to ascend God's holy mountain. In the traditional form of the Roman Mass, it forms the opening antiphon of the private prayers of the priest and his attendants, the "prayers at the foot of the altar." In its Latin form, it was agreed to be most fitting.

Mom has moved into her new apartment in the Assisted Living wing, and the siblings are ever so gradually winding down the extent of their attention. But not entirely. Someone will be around every day to see her. On my last night in Cincinnati, I accompanied her to a concert in the main lounge area, one last visit before leaving town. I've been back in Arlington for a few days now.

I admit I was surprised by how well the Funeral Mass went, and that I harbored suspicions at first as to how accommodating the parish would be. In the past three decades, between a rather disingenuous method of introducing female altar servers a decade before they were licit, an obsession with hand-holding across the aisle at the Lord's Prayer, and a few other liturgical irregularities over the years (like that one in the photograph, a definite no-no which appears in the parish photo gallery), I expected much resistance from a pseudo-intellectual cadre composed of veterans of weekend liturgy workshops, not unlike what I experienced at Georgetown.

However rarely it happens, I was wrong.

What I found was a community of faith that aspired to liturgical correctness, at least when it came to our family. We got their best servers -- all male, per my father's wishes, and my request -- and listened to a homily from the pastor that was judiciously navigated, avoiding a glossing-over of the human foibles of the deceased, while underscoring the need for redemption and forgiveness of sin, and consolation to those left behind. They also agreed with me with respect to eulogies, namely not to have one, as they are not really permitted. Not that this stops anyone elsewhere. Even in the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington, a priest or an accomplished layman can rate a semi-canonization.

I also just knew that the parish could overcome their doubts and rise to the occasion, with Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus." Not to mention the "In paradisum" for the recession. Speaking of chant, they made generous use of it for this occasion. Good for them. (Everybody thinks Gregorian chant is SOOOO HAAAAARD ...)

We didn't get dark vestments, but it's just as well, since the multi-shaded violet ensemble in the sacristy couldn't hold a candle to the white "coronation" chasuble and dalmatic with the matching funeral pall.

I simply hate to break up a matched set.

The word on the street for the last couple of years, was that things at the parish were in "a state of flux." Perhaps it has been the implementation of the newly-translated Roman Missal, and sporadic winds of change in the Archdiocese with the passing of the ancien régime. Whatever the cause, at the end of the day, I would rate it one of most reverent funerals in the "ordinary form" that I have attended in a long time. It was impossible not to take the Deacon's advice; just "sit back and enjoy the prayer." And even if we sell the house, I will still have a home at the parish church along Main Street.

I don't have much in the way of family, at least not within arm's reach. It has been my destiny, as Dad would say, to "march to a different drummer," a path that was set in motion from when I was five years old. My son appears to have taken it further, having grown up with little sense of what a family is at all. And yet he finds camaraderie among his Alexander cousins.

From where I sit, I can't complain; things could be a lot worse. I have my memories, like this video from the parish Oktoberfest in 2010. And I have a long walk ahead.

“Further along we’ll understand why ...”

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POSTSCRIPT: One more thing; the pastor has been very good to my Mom. Kudos for that.


Fr Martin Fox said...


I'm glad the funeral Mass went well for you and your family.

I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my father in 2005 and I think of him almost every day.

If I can do anything, let me know.

I'm fixing to move to a new assignment--I don't know what it is, yet, but it will be in the Archdiocese--and when I do, you'll always be welcome if you pass by this way.

David L Alexander said...

Thanks, Father. I take it this will happen in June. Let me know where you land, and I'll look you up. You know where to find me here in Arlington.

Gail Finke said...

David: I am so glad to hear that the funeral went well, I know how hard it would have been for you to suffer through a "canonization" on top of everything else. From the little time we talked I know that you had a difficult relationship with your father, but dad is dad. I'm very sorry for your loss and I have prayed for your family and your father's soul; I will keep doing so.

Steve said...


I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I'm gratified that you were able to get a funeral mass that was befitting. My grandmother recently passed away, and we had less...choice in the matter.

Also, I cannot tell you how much I love the inscription on the headstone. I'm very seriously considering asking for the same to be placed on mine. I can't think of a more fitting or sublime phrase for that purpose.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him. And may his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

truthfinder2 said...

I am very glad that the pastor has been good to your mother. We will keep all of you in our prayers. --- Rosemary