Thursday, March 29, 2012

Celebrating a Life

Doña Gloria’s mom died nearly two weeks ago.  In the Catholic tradition here, the burial (with just the family present) was the next day, followed by nine days of going to church to pray for her soul. 

A couple of Doña Gloria’s sisters, as well as a cousin, have been staying with her during this time.  When I come home in the evening, they are usually sitting out on the front patio talking together. 
When they come home from church each night, Maria (Doña Gloria’s helper), makes coffee and then dinner for all of them.  It’s been a lot of work for her, and I’m hoping she’ll get a bit of a break soon!
The ninth and final day was this Tuesday.  In the tradition here, this is the day for the ‘public’ memorial service.  It was held in one of the Catholic churches in Jarabacoa.  Doña Gloria’s family is large, and her mom lived her entire life in the area (she was 94). 

The church was completely full.  I was able to understand nearly all of it, and it was obvious from all the comments that her mom was dearly loved. 

After the service everyone came back to our home, where there was plenty of food and coffee.  It’s spring, which means lots of rain, so people had to wade in through our muddy road to duck under the large rented tent in our driveway. 
Doña Gloria also hired extra help to make sure everyone was served.  As one of my friends here said, dying is expensive for families in the D.R. 
It’s not a big home, and every inch of it seemed filled with family and friends.  Although it was a sad occasion, it was also a joyous one, with people sharing happy memories of her mom, eating and drinking together.  And, from what I saw, no one was drinking alcohol, just lots of coffee.

Next week is Semana Santa (Holy Week).  I’m not sure yet what that will look like here in the D.R.  I do know that the schools are out for the week, and that many businesses shut down, too. 
I read on an English-language news site that there will be extra volunteer emergency workers, particularly near the beaches.  Apparently over the past four years 149 people have died during this week. 
Instead of being a week to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice, ending with a celebration of His victory over death, lots of people seem to use it as an excuse to engage in all kinds of risky behavior – particularly all the dumb and dangerous decisions one makes when drunk.  Like what happens at Christmas, the Reason for the celebration seems to have gotten lost. 

Of course, it’s no different than back in the United States.  It’s no different than in my life.  Oh, I don’t plan to spend the week drinking rum and swimming in rip tides! 
But, I think of how the life of Doña Gloria’s mom has been remembered and celebrated.  How the family members have rearranged their schedules to make time to go to church and pray for nine straight days.  How they gathered together to mourn, but also celebrate, a life which impacted theirs in so many ways.      

I know if I asked, Doña Gloria would tell me all the sacrifice, time and money of the past two weeks was worth it.  That she’d have spent more of all of it to remember and celebrate her mom’s life.
It makes me stop and think.  How much do I value the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?  Am I willing to rearrange my schedule, my life, to remember Him?  Am I willing to spend my time, energy, resources, to celebrate what His life has meant to me? 

In the midst of all my busyness and ‘to-do’ lists, it’s so easy for me to forget.  Oh, how I hate to have to admit that!  I praise God that even in my forgetfulness, my unfaithfulness, He is ever faithful.
Prone to wander, prone to forget, oh, how I feel it!  Renew in me today a willingness to remember, to mourn my sin, to celebrate Your sacrifice! 

Jesus, You did not count it cost, but poured Yourself out.  Teach me to do the same, for You alone are worthy of my schedule, my resources, my life, my all.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, dear friend. Thinking of you and thanking God for you this week:-).