Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Requiem for Betty De La Garza

The Requiem Mass for
Betty De La Garza
November 1, 2016

+ I will be honest with you this morning. I do not want to be here. I do not want to be saying goodbye to Betty today.  I—like many of us today—just aren’t ready.

Last Thursday, when I went to Grand Forks and we knew it was time for her to go, I will say in all honesty say: it was very hard. Even as I anointed her, even as I prayed the Prayers at the Time of Death with her and Ciro and the boys and Amanda, I kept thinking, I don’t want her to go. I wasn’t ready.

After all, I saw her a week before and, although she wasn’t well, there was still talk of her getting out and getting better. That day, we shared holy Communion, we cried over her mother, we laughed a bit and joked. She asked me if I had eaten lunch.  

And I believed right up to that day she left us that she would get better and get back home. And that only makes it harder.

For me, Betty was a parishioner, yes, but she was also a very dear friend, as she was to many people here today. I knew Betty for many years. We became very good friends in that time.  And I certainly enjoyed greatly those years I knew her.  We talked on a fairly regular basis. She always loved to tease me.

One of the things she loved teasing me about was that I am vegan. Betty could not, for the life of her, comprehend how anyone in the world could be vegan. It was bad enough that someone didn’t meat. But no dairy either? That just blew her mind.
In typical Betty fashion, she would then occasionally send me photos of food with lots of meat and dairy and then write: “you don’t know what you’re missing. Tee hee. Love you, Father Jamie.”

But we would also talk about the hard things in her life—and there were many. For someone who felt emotions as intensely as Betty, who loved as deeply as Betty loved, life could be hard. For reasons I do not understand, people were sometimes were not nice. And I know the loss of her sister was hard, but the loss of her mother, Georgia, was really hard on her.
I, of course, knew Georgia very well too, and in that time after Georgia died, Betty had a hard time. She would often call me and say, “Father Jamie, I miss my mother so much. I just want to go and be with her and Jesus.”

For all the hard times, for all the pain she sometimes felt emotionally, I can tell you, one thing that never changed was her deep and abiding love for Jesus.  Holy Communion was important to her because in Communion, she felt especially close to Jesus. Because she loved Communion so much, we are including Communion in our service today, in this Requiem Mass. This is definitely the way Betty would want it. She would want to share with all of you one of the ways in which she truly felt closest to Jesus.

When Betty would call and be sad and would cry and would tell how much she loved Jesus, I would tell her in return, “Well, you know, Betty, that Jesus loves you too.” And she would know that.  And being reminded of that helped her, I think.

That is our consolation today as well. As difficult as it is right now,  the reality is this. We are saying goodbye, yes. But it is only a temporary goodbye. It is a goodbye until we see each other again.

Betty, I can tell you, had a very deep faith and belief that we would, one day, all see each other again. Although we are sad today, although we might be feeling a sense of disbelief that Betty is no longer here with us, I can tell you this: today is a day of glory as well. Today is a day in which, even sad as we are, we can celebrate.

I think it’s very appropriate that we are celebrating Betty’s life with us on this day. Today—November 1st—is All Saints Day.  That’s a very important day. It is the day in which we celebrate all those people who have passed from this life and now dwell with Christ in glory.
Now, I can tell you, if I even joked to Betty that she was a saint, she would do that thing she did. She would roll her eyes, and wave her hand at me and then, maybe, she would giggle at how funny that was. But then she would kind of agree with it, certainly in this way. You can almost hear her say this,

“You know, bad things happen to good people. Well, is that’s true, I must be some kind of saint.” Betty was that kind of saint.

Again and again, I heard from people about how she genuinely cared for people. I know that if you needed anything from Betty, she would do anything to do it for you.  She would go out of her way for people. She did those things not for any reward. She did those things because she really, really cared. For me, that’s a saint. And today, as we celebrate all the saints, we celebrate Betty too, the newest saint to dwell with Christ our Savior.

Last Thursday, Betty passed from the pain and suffering she was experiencing into a glory we can only imagine right now.  She believed in that glory. She knew it awaited her. And she knew she was headed toward that glorious destination.
In this moment, Betty is whole. She is happy. And she is beautiful.  And she is preparing a place for each of us.

I can tell you, death has not defeated Betty. All that love, all that concern she had for us, all of that sparkle, that humor—all of that is not gone. It is not lost.

Today all the good things that Betty De La Garza was to us—that woman of humor and joy and love, that woman who really and truly cared for us and wanted to very best for us—all of that is not lost. She is not gone. Death has not swallowed her up.

Rather Betty is alive and dwells now in a place of beauty and Light inaccessible. She is in that place where she said, again and again, she wanted to be. She is with Jesus. She is with her mother. She is with her sister.  She now 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 will be no more tears.  Betty will never cry another tear again.

Sadly, we’re not at that point yet in our own lives.  We will shed more tears.  Certainly today and in the days to come we will shed more tears.

But, for us who are left, we know that that place Betty hoped in and believe in awaits us as well.  That place of light and joy awaits each of us as well. And we will have the opportunity to dwell there.  And she will be there waiting for us.

Yes, I am brutally honest today. I will miss Betty very, very much.  I will all miss her teasing, her phone calls, her warm and bubbling presence. I 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 the good things she was to us. Let us be thankful for all that she has taught us and continues to teach us. Let us be grateful for the love she felt for us and the love we felt for her. And let us be grateful for all she has given us in our own lives.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Betty.

At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem. Amen.

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