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Posts Tagged ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help’

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Image by PixArc from Pixabay

It was kind of an amazing sight — if anything about being part of a funeral procession could be amazing.

Minutes before, we had just viewed the wake of a close friend for the last time.

For me, she was a friend, a sister, someone I knew since high school.  To my wife, she was a close confidant.  To my boys, she was an aunt-figure who lavished them with love, gifts, and hand-me-downs — bags and bags of hand-me-downs.

She was the stand-in for our first-born’s Godmother, who couldn’t make it north from Nashville — a role that she would voluntarily play on a permanent basis.

After saying goodbye, we left the funeral home with heavy hearts, gathered in our minivan, and joined a long line of cars that followed her hearse from the funeral home down Montauk Highway to Wellwood Avenue, the main street of my home town of Lindenhurst, Long Island.

As we pulled up to the Church, our cars were stopped in the middle of the road by a traffic officer.   Second in this seemingly mile-long procession, we quietly watched and waited as the officer spoke to the driver of the car in front of us.

Shortly after, he slowly approached.

“Good morning,” I greeted him, believing that he was going to point us to an area set-aside to park.

“Just leave your keys in the car,” he politely commanded, seemingly in disbelief.  Then added, “… just in case we have to move your car.”

Park here?  In the middle of Wellwood Avenue? 

Wellwood Avenue is the main artery in and out of my hometown.  When our parents asked where we were heading after school, we would often say “Into town” which meant we were going to Wellwood Avenue.

It’s where we got pizza, ate ice cream, saw a movie.  It was the home to our restaurants, our Church, our local theater.

Only one street went from the shore line of our community to the very end of our town, and that was Wellwood Avenue!  It was, in more ways than one, our main street.

We did as he asked, as did the rest of us in the procession, and slowly exited, leaving our vehicles parked along the double yellow line.

That’s when it hit us all — and we moved forward, like zombies, in perpetual disbelief.

The streets were lined with bystanders.  Elected officials and police officers in dress uniforms stood at attention.  There wasn’t a parking — or standing — spot in sight.

Wellwood Avenue — Main Street — was shut down!

“You only see something like this if a President dies,” I whispered in the ear of my eldest.

My knees weakened as the bagpipes waled, seemingly guiding us all inside Our Lady of Perpetual Church, my childhood parish.

Like outside, the Church was adorned, wall-to-wall, with people from all walks of life.  Elected officials.  Teachers. Parents. Loved ones.  Relatives and friends.

Every parish priest and every deacon was present.  In fact, the officiant of the Mass came all the way from Virginia to serve and honor the deceased.

Absent, however, were news reporters.

You see, on paper, my dear friend wasn’t someone “special”.  She was just a mom, a housewife, and a friend.

She never sought higher office beyond the PTA.  She never sought fame or riches.

All she did was love and love large; so much so, that at news of her passing, a multitude came to pay homage. So many, in fact, that they had to shut down Main Street.

Seeing all this, I struggled, as a Christian, how someone so faithful to Our Lord could be taken so early and so painfully?

Finally, the priest approached the podium to give his homily.  He shared with us all an event that only he and her husband knew:  After being diagnosed with brain cancer, the doctor asked this couple if they had any questions.

“Can you give me three years?” she asked.

“One of my patients lived 20 years,” the doctor professed. “Most live four to 15 months.”

After leaving the doctor’s office, her husband turned to her and asked. “Why did you ask for three years?”

“You and the kids aren’t ready now, but you’ll be ready in three years,” she answered, and three years was the time she was granted.

Jesus, the priest reminded us, only had three years to prepare His family, the world.  Comparing my friend’s mission to that of The Christ, the priest defined Jesus’ mission as Love.

The priest then spoke directly to her husband, “Your marriage presented that Love to all who witnessed it.”

I was a groomsman in their wedding. I witnessed that Love first hand.   In fact, I wanted that same Love in my life, in my relationship with my wife.

I also knew that my dear friend had slipped into a coma only days after her wedding anniversary.

Suddenly, the yoke of my sadness was lifted.

You see, she knew, as the priest explained, that God didn’t make her sick.  She also knew that He can take a tragedy and use it to send a clear message of his Real Presence — and often He uses His most loyal followers to communicate this message of His Love.

Take the death of His Son, for example!

Soon, everyone in the Church and all the people lining the streets, would know what I had just realized…

“And like Jesus’ life,” the priest added, “your marriage, your Love-on-display, lasted 33 years.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing.  An Irish funeral followed the Catholic funeral at the cemetery, so things might not be exactly as I remember them.

But for all those listening on that day, in that holy place, the veil was lifted and His message was clearly received.

therese-giganteTherese M. Gigante, beloved wife of Gerard; cherished mother of Christina, Gerard, Joseph, Annemarie, and Matthew; loving daughter of Margaret and the late Vincent Moran, caring sister of Ann Massetti, Vincent Moran, Mary Cramer, Margaret Cronin, Elizabeth Lovizio, Bernadette Haffner and Joseph Moran; adoring aunt to many nieces, nephews and, endearing friend to many more, died on November 15, 2019 exactly as she lived her life, sharing the gift of Christ’s Love to everyone she encountered.

Always a giver, she only asked for three things:

  • A Church funeral where we could all pray together.
  • An after-party where we could all drink, love, and laugh together.
  • And for us all to move on.

Well, we did our best and gave her two out of three!  Enjoy the video of her life.  You’ll quickly understand why it won’t be that easy for many of us to move on.

In the end, keeping true to herself, she gave us all a very clear and lasting message:  The only road that matters is the road you take to Heaven!

Rest in Peace, Reese, and may the perpetual light shine upon you!

#ThreeThirtyThree

 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  There will soon be a scholarship in Theresa’s name.  To honor Reese’s life in a special way, all my profits from the 2020 sales of my book:  Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, an inspirational novella, will go to that scholarship.  You can find the book on Amazon. com.  God bless.

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James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
Today, James lives in UpState New York where he continues to teach.

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