Four in Three
Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. We find classic lines like, “To everything there is a season,” or “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Taken as a whole, the Book of Ecclesiastes is full of wonderful wisdom. During my time at the seminary, a beloved priest professor would encourage us to read the entire book from beginning to end whenever we felt overwhelmed with the pressures of life. This tool served me well as a student, and has become a valuable tool in my ministry to Christ’s Church. A Priest witnesses all the emotions of life. You rejoice at the birth of a child and you mourn with the passing of a loved one. Ecclesiastes verbalizes this sentiment well.
In the past three weeks, I have participated in four funerals. Four beloved individuals left this world in the hope of the resurrection. Two funerals were for 30 something year old’s and two funerals were for 80 something year old’s, yet their loved ones shed the equal number of tears at each of the funerals. All four individuals left behind the same thing, a lasting memory of the relationships developed. Their grieving loved ones mourn their physical losses.
In late February, we lost Kevin, a 33 year old loving husband, father of two, son and good friend. Kevin battled stage 4 oral cancer for 16 months before leaving this life. During his last days, as he prepared to die, he taught those around him how to live! His love for baseball inspired a road trip, with his father, to San Francisco to see his beloved Giants play, and the holidays gave him the opportunity to express his love for his family and friends as they showered him with their loving sentiments. I stood, in rapt amazement, watching his beautiful young wife, with her their two year old child in her arms, sharing cherished memories. She made us laugh and she made us cry, but she reminded us that our hope as Christians is in our Lord’s Resurrection.
In early March, an alarming phone call described Patti’s condition. An otherwise healthy 36 year old had an aneurism and was on life support. Her loving family and friends at her bedside, praying for what looked like a sleeping angel to wake and sit up in her bed. Two days later, after her parish priest, family and friends recited the Lord’s prayer over her Patti’s spirit left her body to enter the next life. A sudden passing. Much more abrupt than Kevin’s departure, yet just as tragic. Her mother and father, brother and soon to be sister-in-law expressed confidence in their understanding of God’s hope. Their courage stems from a lifetime of faith and participation in the Church, which leads them to assurance of the resurrection.
In that same week, we lost Christo Pulos. A blessed man that leaves behind a legacy that will persistently rival imitation. He loved his family, his church, his friends with deep devotion and care. Each of his tasks were completed with meaningful detail. His presence at St. Demetrios will always be marked by his imprints on our hearts. He passed this life two days after his 85th birthday, and yet the mourning reigned; sadness as we endure another loss. Nick Varnava gave a loving testimony to Chris’ service to our Church and the Air Force provided an eloquent expression of his service to our country.
A few days later another World War Two veteran passed. Tom was a decorated member of the Air Force, an American with great pride of his Spartan roots. His loving life memorialized by his grandson, the he raised as his own son, his son, wife, step children and grandchildren. All lamented the loss of another member of the “Greatest Generation.”
Four funeral in three weeks left me craving an opportunity to dive into Ecclesiastes. Before Tom’s graveside service I walked the grounds of the cemetery taking in the names marked on the headstones. I thought about Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom. I thought about the loved ones I watched cry as they grieved their loss. I thought about the words that were spoken, separately, about each one of them. The theme of Christ’s resurrection echoed through my mind. Other portions of Ecclesiastes resonated. “A good name is better than good olive oil, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecc. 7:1) A name on a marker is what we leave behind if we live foolishly, but to those that believe in Christ and have the hope of His resurrection, that marker becomes a stepping stone to eternal joy.
This is the time of year we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Sometimes we take for granted the Paschal responses. Lethargically saying, “Christ is Risen,” to which we receive a tired, “Truly He is risen.” Considering the events of the last three weeks, it is imperative to express our conviction in His Resurrection! Those closest to Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom, expressed their desire to be reunited in the next life. Belief and hope come from our faith in Christ. Holy Week shows us the love God has for us. He, willingly, climbed up on to the cross, died a violent death, to reassure us that He wants us to be with Him in the next life. All the sorrow in the world has no power over that expression of love. Death no longer restricts us from God’s heavenly embrace. As we fervently chant, “CHRIST IS RISEN,” we lovingly testify and memorialize the legacy of those that have passed before us. “Truly, He is risen” for this is the reason we celebrate!
In Christ’s Service,
Fr. Gary Kyriacou