Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Requiem Mass for Sharon "Angel" Brekke

Sharon “Angel” Brekke
(July 5, 1950-March 25, 2015)
Samuel Memorial Episcopal Church
Naytawaush, Minneosta

March 31, 2015

+ I am very grateful this morning.  am grateful that Mother Jackie asked me to be a part of this service. When I heard that Angel died, I let Mother Jackie know that I would definitely be here for this service.  Nothing would’ve prevented me from being here this morning to say goodbye to Angel.
As you might know, I knew Angel for many years. She was a very important person in the life of St. Stephen’s Church in Fargo, where I serve as priest. And she was an important person in my life too.
I certainly enjoyed greatly those years I knew her.  I was very honored to be her priest. And even more honored to be her friend.  I have always been very grateful for her friendship.

The years in which I knew Angel were hard ones for her. She was dealing with much physical pain throughout all of those years. When she wasn’t able to come to church, I would often go to her house to bring her Holy Communion.  And many times we had in-depth discussions about her illness, about death, about what awaits us after this life.  And I can say, this morning, that, like everyone here this afternoon,  I will miss Angel dearly.

I will miss those discussions with her. I will miss her presence at St. Stephen’s.  I will miss the affections and kindness she carried with her.

Certainly, that kindness and affection remained intact even despite the fact that these last several years were hard ones for Angel. That debilitating pain and suffering she experienced over these last many years, took their toll on Angel.

The last time I saw Angel was in late January, right before I was leaving for vacation. At that time, Angel took my hand and said, as she had often said, “You know, Fr. Jamie, the doctors say I don’t have long.”

I sort of poo-pooed her at that time.

I said, “You know, Angel, doctors are not always right.”

She sort of shrugged at this and said, “Well, if they’re right, I’m ready.”

And she was ready.  I had had enough discussions with Angel over the years that I knew she had deep faith in where she was going—and that she would, in the end, be all right.  And she knew she would be all right. She knew she would be taken care of by the God in whom she believed.  She knew there was place awaiting her, where she would not suffer any more pain. We can rejoice, this morning, in the fact that she is there in that place at this moment.

Still, that doesn’t make what we—the ones who are left behind—any easier.  I can tell you that, when I heard the news that Angel had passed, I was hurt. Deeply. I thought to myself, it all seems so unfair.
Why? I prayed to God. Why did someone who was so kind and so loving as Angel have to suffer as intensely as she did.

And then I remembered something I read in a book years ago that has been very meaningful for me. 

 In this book, our perception versus God’s perception is explained this way:

Think of a carpet.  From above, the carpet looks perfect.  It’s soft.  It maybe has a beautiful design. It has a color that perfectly compliments the room.  But from underneath the carpet, it looks awful. We see stray pieces of thread. We see the plastic underlining.  We see the dried paste and nail holes.  

That’s what life is like sometimes. We are on the underside of the carpet right now.  That’s how we view life in this moment.   We see the stray threads and the framework, but we don’t see the carpet as it is meant to be seen. We see the ugly things life has thrown at us and it frustrates us.  It’s hard for us to imagine what’s on the other side of the carpet, if in fact there is even another side.

But, God is on the other side of the carpet.  God sees the carpet as it should be seen. While we are here, on this side, we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. We don’t understand why someone like Angel had to experience the set-backs she did over these past few years.  But we trust in the fact that one day, we will cross over to the other side—to God’s side. And when we do, it will all—somehow—make sense. It will all be the way it should be.

Angel is now looking at her life—and ours—from that other side. She is now looking at it all from God’s perspective. And that’s what she would want us to cling to as we go on from here.

Today we are saying goodbye to Angel. But it is only a temporary goodbye. It is a goodbye until we see each other again.
Angel, I know, had a very deep faith and belief that we would, one day, all see each other again.  She had a deep faith in her God, who was with her and remained with her until the end. And because of her deep faith in God and in what awaited her following this life, she would not want us to despair over her death.  Because Angel knew that, although we can’t fully understand things now, we will one day. And that when we do, it will be beautiful.
So, today, although we might be tempted to despair, we really cannot. When looking at these last few days from Angel’s perspective, this has been one great and glorious day without end for her. She has been relieved of her pain and suffering. The weariness and the strain she carried with her has been lifted from her. And she has now become fully and completely herself.

Yes, we are sad for this temporary separation. But we are not despairing. Because we know that will all be well.  It will all be well.

Today, all the good things that Angel Brekke was to us—that woman of strength and character and integrity—all of that is not lost.  It is not gone.  Death has not swallowed that up. Rather all of that is alive and dwells now in Light inaccessible. All of that dwells in a place of peace and joy, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. In a place in which, there never again be any more tears. Except, maybe, tears of joy.  And for us who are left, we know that that place awaits us as well.
That place of light and joy awaits each of us as well.  And we to will have the opportunity to dwell there.

I will miss Angel. We will all miss her and will feel her loss for a long time to come. But, on this day in which we bid her this temporary goodbye, let us also be thankful. Let us be thankful for this woman whom God has been gracious to let us know and to love. Let us be thankful for all she was to us—a caring and loving presence in our lives. L
et us be thankful that even in those moments, when life on this underside of the carpet throws ugly things we don’t understand at us, we can still cling to hope and know that will not, in the end, be defeated.  And, most of all,  let us be grateful for all that love and the care Angel has given us in our own lives.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Angel.
 At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.  Amen.

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