The Assumption of Bertha Huber by Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson
(Here, what's become my annual August 15 posting on The Assumption of Bertha Huber)
If this painting offends, please accept my apology. I post it here not out of any irreverence or even playfulness but rather because the feast of the real Assumption is upon us and, as on all feasts of the Blessed Virgin, we need to discover how what happened in her life and love for God relates to us. The painter, Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson, writes:
This 16x20 oil painting is called The Assumption of Bertha Huber. It is the third version I have done of this theme. Miss Huber was godmother to my three children. She died at age 87 in August, 1975 and I told the children I would paint what it 'really' looked like.Painting in the folk art style, Wilson has given us a kind of folk art appreciation of the Assumption. The word comes from the Latin assumere which means to take to one's self. Assumption celebrates the Lord's taking to himself his beloved Mother, the Mother of us all, who, the Church has taught from early times, was assumed into heaven body and soul lest the body which bore the Christ into the world should undergo any corruption.
Miss Huber was from Munich so I know she was expecting nice blond angels waiting for her in heaven... (I)n the first version I also had little pug dog angels because Miss Huber was very fond of our dogs.
At the bottom of the painting is supposed to be me and the three children weeping for her at the nursing home where she had expired just moments before our arrival. It was a very good nursing home, by the way, named Calvary, in the Bronx.
We pray that one day the Lord will take us to himself at the time of our passing from this life to life forever with God: one day the hands reaching down in Wilson's painting will reach out for you and me. No, we will not be assumed body and soul: this mortal coil of ours will undergo the inevitable corruption of nature. Yet one day, we pray and hope, the Lord will waken each of us to glory and our souls will be reunited with our bodies in a glorified state, the beauty of which we cannot yet imagine.
So Wilson and her daughters worked at imagining what it really looked like when Bertha Huber made the journey each of us will make.
Just this weekend I was called to visit and pray with a woman who was dying. Margaret was only a few weeks shy of her 103rd birthday! I saw her only hours before her death and yet she was as sharp as a tack, greeting me by name, thanking me for coming to see her, and joining wholeheartedly in the prayers I offered with her and for her.
But there were moments when Margaret seemed distracted from our conversation, straining to see something above her I could not see. And several times she turned her head, as if to listen more closely to a voice I could not hear... I do not know, but I would not be surprised if this beautiful woman was attending to the faces and the voices of angels, or perhaps of the Lord himself, as he prepared to take her to himself...
Let's invite the words of the Preface prayer for the Assumption to bring this all together:
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.
You would not allow decay to touch her body,
for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life,
in the glory of the incarnation.
In our joy we sing to your glory
with all the choirs of angels:
Holy, holy, holy...
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