November is the Month of All Souls, a time when we offer special prayers for those who have died. It's just nearly three years ago that Ann Ducharme, my aunt, passed from this life to life forever with God. In the spirit of November prayer, I offer you my homily from Ann's funeral Mass. Most of my readers didn't know Ann but many of you love to knit and I'm sure even more of you know and love someone who's a knitter. Thus the illustration above and the theme of my homily below.
It was Ann’s request that there be no wake
and Ron has honored her wishes – as he would be wont to do.
But I don’t think Ann would mind if I share with you
a prayer from the wake service,
a prayer I believe will speak to our hearts this morning.
It goes like this:
Brothers and sisters,
we believe that all the ties of friendship and affection
which knit us as one throughout our lives
do not unravel with death.
Just two weeks ago when I visited in Kingston
I remember seeing some knitting on two needles,
on the floor next to Ann’s chair.
And I remember wondering two things:
First: what was she making?
And second, would she have time to complete it?
Sadly, the skein of Ann’s life came to an end
before she finished her knitting.
But there was another, more important kind of knitting Ann did:
the knitting of friendship and affection,
the knitting of a love that does not unravel, not even with death.
Whether you and I know how to work with those long needles or not,
we are all called to fashion those same
“ties of friendship and affection,” ties of love,
that bind us together with God and with one another.
I don’t knit. I’ve only watched others do it.
But I know that knitting is a slow process,
where every single “knit and purl” counts.
It’s one stitch at a time, over and over again, one row at a time…
And I know that sometimes a knitter “drops” a stitch
and needs either to rip out some of what’s been done
or go back and, cleverly, pick up a dropped stitch.
Knitting relationships in our lives is like that, too.
We drop stitches all the time.
That’s why the prayer from the wake service goes on with these words:
Confident that God always remembers the good we have done
and forgives our sins,
let us pray, asking God to gather Ann to himself.
Like any one of us, Ann dropped stitches in her life.
But she knew well how to pick up a dropped stitch, a day at a time
and in God’s mercy to begin knitting again where she had left off.
With Ann’s passing, it might feel that what was so beautifully knit
over 71 years has been ripped out our lives…
But that’s where this prayer’s wisdom has power to heal our loss.
The ties, affection and love that knitted Ann’s family together as one
for 50 years -- do not unravel with death.
I think of what Joe Murphy posted
on our Cousins Page on Face Book last week. He wrote:
I still have the afghan Ann lovingly knitted for me,
nearly 40 years ago.
For me, it is literally a hug sitting in my closet,
waiting to be had, anytime it's needed.
(Beautiful words, Joe!)
But Ann’s love will long outlast Joe’s afghan
because her love knitted its way into our hearts
and knitted us into her heart:
into your heart, Ron, for 50 years of marriage,
and into your hearts, Michele, Chrissy, Andy, David and Moe
and into the heart of your spouses,
Charlie, Neil, Corey, Andrea and Lindsay;
and into your hearts,
Abby, Jonathan, Jake, Sara, Leo, Ben
Van, Gabrielle, Gavin and Jackson.
What Ann knitted in your hearts will never unravel
and the greatest guarantee of that is the love of God.
As Psalm 139 reminds us:
Lord, you formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
God knits, too!
It’s the love of God,
knitting each of us into being and all of us all together,
that gives us reason to have faith that not even death
can unravel what makes us one in love.
The “knitting prayer” goes on in these words:
For those who believe in your love, Lord, death is not the end,
nor does it destroy the bonds you forge in our lives.
So, if the knitting imagery is just a little too delicate for you,
then bring your grief to the foundry where the fire of the forge
softens, melts and bends the hardest of metals.
And even greater than that is the heat of God’s love,
forging the bonds that unite us as one in marriage and family,
in friendship and love
Bonds forged by the Lord can never be broken.
The reading from Wisdom told us:
As gold in the furnace, God purified and proved Ann’s love
and now has taken her to himself.
And with St. Paul we pray that Ann’s faith in God and her love for us
have given her victory over death through Christ Jesus, the Lord.
Finally, the knitting prayer closes with these words:
Lord, we share the faith of your disciples
and the hope of the children of God.
Bring the light of Christ’s resurrection to this time of loss and sorrow
as we pray for Ann and for those who love her.
We pray here at the altar where Ann was nourished by the Eucharist.
We pray for her and for those who love her.
We pray that she come to the place God has prepared for her in heaven
and that with all our family and friends who have gone before her,
that she will know the peace of Christ forever
and one day welcome each of us
when the Lord calls us home to himself.
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