Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Long and Reverent Farewell

We buried my father this past Saturday.

The night before was the visitation. The funeral home is down the street from the church, owned and operated by Mom's cousin. Jack and I met the night before, and talked for about an hour about how it was "back in the day." (Amazing how many "shirttail cousins" I have around here.)

There was a private hour before the public viewing, meant only for the family. The hardest part for Mom was to see Dad lying in state for the first time. On his lapels were the "Eagle Scout Dad" pin, the Proctor and Gamble service pin, and the Knights of Columbus Pin. But there was something else. In checking his Air Force service record (DD-214), we learned that he was awarded the German Occupation Medal. We never could find one, but thanks to eBay, we got one just in time to pin on his left chest. Mom took one look at it, and said she wanted it for her own safekeeping. In fact, she wanted everything pinned on him. Thus he was buried wearing the ribbon bar that came with the medal. And, at Sal's request, a concession to Filipino custom was made, and the rosary in his hands was broken, as a wish that none of us would follow too quickly.

The parish priest came for that hour, and the Vigil for the Deceased was held then held, just the family. Fourteen of us gathered around Mom as the good Father officiated. It was a wise move, as the two-hour visitation that followed was quite celebratory. A cousin from my Dad's side showed up. I hadn't seen him since I was a little boy. But perhaps the big highlight was the photo collage shown on the video screen, prepared by nephew Jacob with help from some of his cousins, scenes from Dad's early life, and raising of a family. His grandsons were astonished at moments of particular resemblance between themselves and their grandfather. After the visitation, the children and grandchildren went to a local restaurant to celebrate Dad's life, and remember all those clever witticisms that were his trademark. We offered a toast to his memory, one that he actually taught us.

“O quam bonum et jucundum, est habitare cum fratribus in unum.”

Did I mention he studied Latin for nine years through high school and college?

Then came the Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday. It was our intention for it to be, as much as possible, what Dad would have wanted for himself. The parish was very accommodating (okay, they drew the line at dark vestments, but other than that ...), and the result was a most reverent experience. What follows is the text of the program itself.

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Principal Celebrant:
Rev Robert Waller, Pastor

Concelebrant: Rev Jan Kevin Schmidt

Deacon of the Mass: Rev Mr Timothy S Schutte

Master of Ceremonies: Mr David L Alexander (son)

The family of the deceased requests that a respectful silence be maintained, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, in the period before the Mass begins.


On the day Paul was brought to the Church for baptism, he was reborn in the waters of Life. He was also clothed in a white garment, and given a lighted candle, the Light of Christ whom he was to carry in his life. Today, Paul is brought full circle, returning to the house of God, where his remains are sprinkled with Holy Water. He is also covered with a white pall, and will rest beneath the Paschal candle, the symbol of the risen Christ, whose Light conquered Death, and granted Life.


Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

People: And with your spirit.

Sprinkling with Holy Water

Placing of the Pall

Entrance Procession

Hymn: O God Our Help In Ages Past (Worship 579)


Mark Alexander, Jacob Alexander, Paul David Alexander, Scott Alexander, Justin Drybala, Michael Ryan, Robert Ryan, Stephen Ryan (grandsons)



First Reading

Wisdom 3:1-9
Mark Alexander (grandson)

Reader: The word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 23 (Worship 32, Antiphon I)
Cantor: Deborah Sullivan

Response: "My shepherd is the Lord, nothing indeed shall I want."

Second Reading

Romans 6:3-9
Edward Drybala (son-in-law)

Reader: The word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

Gospel Acclamation

Mass of the Angels and Saints (S Janco)


Rev Mr Timothy S Schutte

Deacon: The Lord be with you.

People: And with your spirit.

Deacon: A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.

People: Glory to you, O Lord.

John 11:17-27


Rev Robert Waller

Prayer of the Faithful

Jacob Alexander (grandson)

Response: Lord, hear our prayer.


Preparation Hymn

The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Worship 609)


Michael Ryan, Robert Ryan, Stephen Ryan (grandsons)

Priest: Pray, my brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

Prayer over the Oblations

Eucharistic Prayer

The Roman Canon

Preface (Dialogue)

Priest and People

[illustration of preface chant here]


Cantor and People

[illustration of sanctus chant here]

Memorial Acclamation

Priest: The mystery of faith ...

[illustration of acclamation chant "b" here]

Great Amen

[illustration of amen chant here]

The Lord's Prayer

Priest and People

[illustration of 1964 robert snow chant here]


Priest: ... for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

[illustration of doxology chant here]

Sign of Peace

Priest: The peace of the Lord ...

[illustration of responsory chant here]

Agnus Dei

Cantor and People

[illustration of agnus dei chant here]

Invitation to Communion

Priest: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

[illustration of domine non sum dignus chant here]

Catholics who are in a state of grace are invited to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Those who are unable to receive, or those who are not Catholic, while not admitted to Communion, are asked to offer prayers for the blessed repose of the deceased, and for the peace and unity of the world.

Communion Hymn

At That First Eucharist (Worship 733)

Communion Meditation

Panis Angelicus (C├ęsar Franck, 1872)

Panis angelicus
    The angelic bread
fit panis hominum;
    becomes the bread of men;
Dat panis coelicus
    The heavenly bread
figuris terminum:
    ends all prefigurations:
O res mirabilis!
    What wonder!
Manducat Dominum
    The Lord is eaten
Pauper, servus et humilis.
    by a poor and humble servant.

Te trina Deitas
    Triune God,
unaque poscimus:
    We beg of you:
Sic nos tu visita,
    visit us,
sicut te colimus;
    just as we worship you.
Per tuas semitas
    By your ways,
duc nos quo tendimus,
    lead us where we are heading,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
    to the light in which you dwell.


Soloist: Deborah Sullivan

Prayer After Communion


Invitation to Prayer


In the Church, incense is a symbol of honor and respect that dates to the most ancient of times. As the sweet fragrance rises to the heavens, so we send Paul from this life, in the hope of forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Kingdom of God.

Song of Farewell

Saints of God (Worship 175)

Response: "Receive his soul and present him to God, to God the Most High." (2x)

Prayer of Commendation

Recessional Chant

Chant: In Paradisum (Worship 178)
Cantor: Deborah Sullivan

May choirs of angels
escort you into paradise:
and at your arrival
may the martyrs
receive and welcome you;
may they bring you home
into the holy city, Jerusalem.

May the holy angels welcome you,
and with Lazarus, who lived in poverty,
may you have everlasting rest.

Excerpts from the English translation and chant of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL); excerpts from Order of Christian Funerals © 1985, ICEL. All rights reserved.

Following the Mass of Christian Burial, the funeral cottage will proceed to Gate of Heaven Cemetery (11000 Montgomery Road, north of Exit 50 off I-275). After the Rite of Burial, we will return to the church. There we invite you to the church basement for a light meal, in gratitude for sharing this occasion with us. Know that you remain in our thoughts and prayers, even as we remain in yours.

-- The Alexander Family

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In light of the cold weather, and Mom's infirmity, we had the last formalities in the cemetery chapel. There we were greeted by two Air Force honor guards from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. They engaged the ceremonial folding of the flag, and presented it to Mom: "On behalf of the Department of the Air Force, the President of the United States, and a grateful nation ..." The last item was completely unexpected by all except for yours truly, who played the harmonica and sang an Irish patriotic song, one of heroic virtue, and victory in the face of death.

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death ye will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" said the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betray thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain
Could not bring his proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!"

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Everyone appeared to agree. Besides, as we are not the least bit Irish, "Danny Boy" would have been a bit much.

The repast was in the church basement. Mom ended her time there at a table with a delegation from Dad's side of the family, including my Uncle Francis, the last surviving of six Alexander brothers. The evening was a relatively quiet one, with some of us joining Mom for Saturday evening Mass in the chapel at Cottingham, and Sal and I visiting my son Paul that evening, as he was staying at his uncle's house at the time. By the following morning, things were quieting down, as I took Sal and Paul to the airport.

The question that usually arises next is, now what?


Ron Rolling said...

"The question that usually arises next is, now what?

As Rilke once penned, you will love the question until you can live the answer. Time and prayer will be your allies. Those who know you are in grieving mode will give you the space and availability to work through the process; open ears and hearts will be their greatest assets. The Holy Spirit will do His work of consoling and healing.

"Life has changed; not ended." So it is with your father (RIP); so it will be with those he left behind.

Nod said...

Requiescat in pace.

Cathy said...

I didn't have very much input into my father's funeral, but thanks be to God, they did sing "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." The cantor also took my last-minute request for "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise."

I am so sorry for your loss. I still miss my father very much since he passed away in 2007. Unfortunately, my mother also died that year, just 2 months later. It was not a good year ... But time does heal some, if not all.

Matt P said...

The day after my dad died I searched for some consoling words, and I found them in the following poem...

What is Death?
Henry Scott Holland
Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just around the corner.

All is well.