Fr Kevin Neal
Recently I had the privilege of blessing the gravestone of Kathleen Barry in the cemetery in Hastings. It was exactly a year since she died.
The immediate families gathered with close friends. We followed more or less the prayers and readings outlined in the Pukapuka Karakia. It’s very similar in prayer and song to the first part of the Mass and also like the Irish version of the same prayers and readings.
There are two readings and in this case two songs. Those of you who knew Kathleen know that she was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal and was a long-time holder of a Fellowship of Trinity College London because she was a great musician and encouraged many others into music, first as a teacher and then later she lead in the wider community. I felt quite in awe of celebrating her memorial on Sunday because, in her lifetime, she achieved so much.
As we began to turn out on that particular Sunday we became aware that numerous small groups were doing the same for their loved ones. It slowly dawned on me that it was Mothers’ Day. There were large and small groups gathered around headstones and just reminiscing.
Some groups stayed for a relatively short time while others seemed to have been there for hours. They appeared not to notice us with our little choir and electronic organ. What we were doing was just one of 100 ways of remembering, or so it would seem.
It made us think of how people remember those who have gone before them. I guess on this day, it was mothers in particular. What people were saying was that they knew instinctively that there is life after life. I’m quite sure that few would have been able to put that thought into words, but they knew that sitting down, resting on the gravestone for cup of tea, was a reality.
Ask them about the feast of November 2 and they would look confused and wonder what you were getting at. Sitting down and having a large family conference of the living and the dead, well, we do that regularly!
Their families were gathered in several generations including the family pets, to say ‘we remember you and what you have done’.
In a way it puts time, which it has lost, back into the reality of the relationship; in other words it matters very little. Whatever the age, we are all in this together.