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Saying Goodbye

alec vanderboom

St. Joseph Cemetery, Malone New York
Burial site of Robert E. Benjamin

Jon saying a last goodbye to his father

On September 20, 2009, my husband's father died 90 days after his first cancer diagnosis. I held my husband's hand as he threw a clod of dirt on his father's grave. Then I snapped this picture as he said a last goodbye before we started the lonely car trip home.

When I snapped this photograph, my heart hurt. I couldn't imagine driving way and leaving Jon's beloved Daddy six feet under the earth.

Then a silly grave marker caught my eye. Directly behind Dad's grave is a huge, vivid green shamrock with the name "Burke". I'd written earlier about Mr. Patrick Burke, a banker at our church whose sudden death shocked our parish choir. For the past year, I've watched his widow and his children grow in grace and faith. That sight of the Burke family name was a little nudge from my friend in heaven, reminding me that "death is not the end of the story."

My life is filled with big and little hurts. There are backed up garbage disposals, stubbed toes, and toddlers who can't sleep. There's a dead son and a Father who suddenly disappeared. Yet the life of a Catholic is filled with beauty and hope. Every time I think I reach the end of my strength, a moment of grace happens- like a rope ladder dropped from heaven.