A Cake with Happy Birthday Candles

A Funeral and A Birthday

On Saturday, I started the day with a funeral and ended it with my birthday dinner. When the funeral was set for the 15th and I was asked to help organize the reception, I paused. Without question, without hesitation, Ruben’s funeral and the celebration of his life with his family and friends far, far outweighed any need for me to celebrate my birthday, but there was the thought that I can’t celebrate my birthday, or at least couldn’t without guilt, when the day’s focal point would be the funeral of a good friend, long before his time should have come.

A Cake with Happy Birthday Candles

The first event of the day was Ruben’s funeral, celebrated by Fr. Jamie Misko, a friend of Ruben’s and pastor of Christ the King in Belton, TX. We were in our home parish, St. Ignatius, which made it comforting to celebrate in the church where we had seen Ruben a fair number of Sundays as we bounced around Mass times trying to find the right one with the girls.

I don’t recall much of Fr. Jamie previous to this. I know that he celebrated Ruben and Jen’s wedding, but, honestly, I don’t remember much of that liturgy. I’m not sure if I had attended any other service he led.

This funeral, though, was amazingly beautiful. Of all of the liturgies I’ve attended over the last 14 years, this ranks near the top. It wasn’t perfect (from my former altar server perspective), but Fr. Jamie is a masterful liturgist (in the good sense of the word).

Those close to me know that, recently, it has been difficult time in my spirituality. So much of it was based on the liturgy and being involved, as a planner, master of ceremony, extraordinary ministry of the Eucharist, lector, etc, and, since the girls were born, my availability to serve and my ability to “lose” myself into the liturgical prayer has diminished to virtually null.

Between grandparents watching the girls, the liturgical style of Fr. Jamie, the weight of the ceremony at hand and the firm desire to “do it right in honor of Ruben”, I lost myself in this liturgy. His homily was amazingly accurate:

Funerals are the most profound teaching moments in the Church. They remind us who we are and whose we are.

Additionally, for me, between the incense, the great balance between said and sung prayer, capped with a beautifully chanted (in both Latin and English) psalm (as the “song of farewell” for those of you who are keeping liturgical score), Ruben’s funeral liturgy was an amazing birthday “present”.

Following the funeral, we gathered in reception to celebrate more. At one point, one friend remarked how it is unfortunate to not be able to celebrate my birthday because of the circumstances. I realized though that the majority of my friends were all there, in the moment, celebrating the joy of life. Again, Ruben gave me another birthday “present”.

That evening, Vanessa and I went out for a nice dinner at the Vince Young Steakhouse downtown. The meal was “heaven in my mouth”, but because of the reflection we’ve been allowed the 48 hours previous on life, the importance of living it to the fullest, and the need to embrace the time together when you had it, the conversation at dinner was one of the most fruitful and true conversations we’ve had in awhile. Yet again, another “present”  on the day that we remembered Ruben.

When I woke up on Saturday, I felt selfish and guilty for wanting to make notice about my birthday when we all were mourning Ruben’s death. But, through the reflection and celebration of life allowed to us—really, one of Ruben’s last earthly acts—it turned out to be the best way to both celebrate the life of Ruben Garza and the best way to celebrate the gift of another day on Earth.


2 responses to “A Funeral and A Birthday

  1. Patmom4 Avatar

    “Funerals are the most profound teaching moments in the Church. They remind us who we are and whose we are.”  This is so true. 
    A comment on funerals—I have been to many funerals, both protestant and Catholic.  Of the two, the funeral Mass has been the most…don’t know if “satisfying” is the correct word, but it is the most “right”.  The lit Baptismal candle, the prayers of the liturgy, the praying for the soul of the deceased….all centered around the Mass.  It IS right and good.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.

  2. Johanna Avatar

    As I will soon be attending a funeral for my mother-in-law, this is greatly helping me prepare and look at the more post it I’ve side of things. Thank you for sharing this. I wish more life to you and blessings on you and your loved ones.

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