Eulogy For My Grandmother

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Sunset on the day of the funeral – 12 April, 2017

This was the eulogy I delivered at the funeral of Arline Grace Bence (29 Oct. 1929 – 5 Apr. 2017), my beloved Grandmother. The Requiem Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Fr. Gregory Wilson of St. Mary, Help of Christians, Aiken, SC. I also sang the Salve Regina during the Offertory. I’d like to thank everyone who has been so kind to express their concern and commiseration during this difficult time. I decided to put this rather personal document on my blog for those family and friends who could not attend the funeral, as well as to honor my grandmother’s memory.

I confess, when I learned last Wednesday that my Grandma Arline had finally passed away, I did not immediately feel the sorrow or grief I was expecting. Instead, I felt a twofold relief. First, I was relieved that after years of battling dementia and various other painful disorders, my grandmother was finally at peace. And secondly, I was glad that, having been consoled and fortified by the last rites of the Church, she would soon plunge through the cleansing fires of Purgatory and arrive safely in, as our Psalm today so beautifully puts it, “the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

And when the sadness came, it was mingled with tremendous gratitude. For when I remember my grandmotherwhen I see her coffin hereI am reminded of a woman who was one of the greatest blessings in my life. Few people more profoundly molded my character and dispositions. I’m sure that so many of us here can say much the same.

Arline Grace Bence, born the day the stock market crashed, a proud New Yorker and Italian to the end, was known to all as a simple and generous soul. In my own life, she expressed these virtues in different ways. She gave unstintingly of her time. For many years, we would both look forward to Friday nights. After the school week had concluded, I would mount the short staircase to her apartment above our garage, and the two of us would share a meal together. This was a precious time for both of us – if only there were more such time now! But in the years we passed in each other’s company, my Grandmother also fed my desire for learning. We spent many a weekend or summer’s day going out to lunchusually pizzafollowed by an outing to Barnes and Noble. She would let me roam the stacks for what seemed like hours, never complaining as she sat and read a magazine or two.

But this pattern of happy memories fails to capture the most important gift she gave me – the gift of faith. My grandmother was the first person to take me to Mass. She was the first person to buy me a book of saints. She was the first person to teach me the blessed words of the Ave Maria. And when I began my conversion in the last years of high school, she was the first to accompany me to weekly services. Although we were no longer spending Friday nights together, we both started to look forward to Sunday mornings instead. And we found a new closeness in doing so.

These giftsher steadfast love, the time we shared, the faith that sustained us in different ways – these happy memories are what will bring me something of her presence in her absence.

For now, she is gone. Thoughperhaps not in all ways.

The faithful departed are not really gone. They are, instead, much closer to us than they ever were before, for they have loosed the petty chains of time and space. In God, they are near to us – nearer than we can imagine. All those who have died in Christ and gone before us are waiting to help us as we, too, seek Heaven. And I can say with confidence that Arline Bence, our dear grandmother, aunt, cousin, in-law, friend, and mother, will very soon be interceding for us. Let us intercede for her now.

Everyone here loved her so very much. Perhaps even in ways that you could never quite express. I believe that I speak for us all when I say that my grandmother loved us deeply, if imperfectly. In this, she always proved her essential humanity. But now, as she enters her eternal life, she can love us all more perfectly, at last.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.

Amen.

GrandmaWedding

My grandmother’s wedding. She was a beautiful woman in her youth.

GrandmaBaby

My grandmother and me, 1995. We both lived in Florida then.

GrandmaCooking

Cooking with Grandma, c. 1998. Georgia.

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Grandma with Eeyore, Disney World, 1997.

GrandmaPluto

Grandma with Pluto, Disney World, 1997.

GrandmaBirthdayCake

Grandma and me eating birthday cake. I don’t know if it’s my birthday or hers, but I’m sure the cake was satisfactory. c. 1998. Georgia.

GrandmaPool

My grandmother on a trip to Florida. c. 2000.

GrandmaMomFlorida

My mother and grandmother together in Florida, c. 2000.

GrandmaGraduation

Grandma and me at my high school graduation, May 2013. Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

 

 

Four Years a Catholic

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Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga, by Jose de Paez, Mexico, c. 1770

Four years ago today, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. It’s been quite a journey since. I have often stumbled, often tarried, often limped along the way. My early zeal has often shattered under the pressure of my own bad habits and the various little demons of life. My idealism has been shaken by failures – my own and those of others. My faith has been sorely tested by this pontificate.

But I would never go back. There have been so many blessings and graces given to me over the course of my sacramental life that to abandon ship would be nothing less than the crassest betrayal. I have grown in spite of myself. I must express my gratitude to all those friends, in Heaven and earth, who have helped me along the way. Through the caked and crusted carapace of sin, I can still feel the heart of my faith beating strong. I have hope.

And it is with that hope that I entrust the next year of my life as a Catholic to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. I had earlier given my second year to Our Lady, the third year to the Holy Spirit, and the fourth to the Holy Name. Now, I think it best to give over all that I may encounter, all that I may do, and all that I may suffer to the Heart which bleeds for me. In doing this, I hope to draw nearer to the God who abides temporally in the Tabernacles of the world and eternally in the Tabernacle of unapproachable light.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Furnace of Charity, Tabernacle of the Most High, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, pray for me.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

Amen.