My mother, Evelyn Donnetta Geiger, passed at the age of ninety-one on July 18. We just celebrated her funeral today. Thanks to everyone who has been so kind during these past weeks. God bless you all.
May Evelyn and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
I know I speak for the family when I say that it was a great blessing for us to be with our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend during her last days. She was deeply committed to her family, and the family was there for her, to accompany her on her final journey. Mom knew she was dying and she was ready to meet Jesus. I told her she was going to see Jesus. She replied, “I want to see Him, but I am not sure that He wants to see me.” I think she was being facetious.
I would like to thank all those who have prayed for the repose of the soul of our mother and who have supported the family during this time. On behalf of my her sons, my brothers, Trace and Mike, and her grandchildren, Charlene, Tim, Chris, Michaela, and her great-grandson, Kolby, I say thank you. Though clearly difficult, it has been a tremendous time of grace.
I know my mom, and she didn’t want to be canonized in her funeral homily by her priest son. And she is right. So, please pray for her.
Our mom was in the habit of writing down her thoughts, and sometimes she would copy passages out of books. She wrote about her childhood, and sometimes she wrote about politics, but usually, she wrote about her Catholic faith. Mom also wrote poetry. She wrote in notebooks and on scraps of paper that she would strategically leave lying around, and sometimes she would address her passage to one of us in the family.
When I was a teenager, I was pretty much oblivious to all this, as I was to much going on around me. So when I was twenty-one and became more serious about my faith, our mom had a ready made pile of things to show me that I had up to then ignored. That was the reawakening of my vocation to the religious life and the priesthood.
Our mother was focused on eternal values. This is a theme that comes through the things she wrote down and especially through her actions. An expression of this is a passage from St. Augustine, which our mom copied onto a manila folder. Augustine says we can become oblivious to the absence of God in our life because we are wrapped up in the things we have used to replace him. But in the end, we lose those things too, because nothing in this life lasts, but our eternal destiny is forever. This funeral of our mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend reminds us of this.
St. Francis of Assisi once said to his religious brothers: “I want to send you all to paradise.” That was Mom’s sentiment and still is. St. Maximilian Kolbe used to say of the friars who had passed away that now they could work “with both hands free.” What he meant was that in this life, while we work, we need to keep one hand in that of the Blessed Mother lest we fall, but in the next, if are faithful, we will do good on earth without having any other concern. Mom still wants to send us all to paradise, but now with both hands free.
Over the last week, we have been digging up old pictures and trying to figure out whose who in photos of Mom and Dad when they were young and around people we maybe never met. Memories mean a lot in times like this—even memories of things we did not witness ourselves.
I chose the gospel reading from the Passion according to John for just this reason: the importance of our memories. The early Church referred to the gospels as the “recollections of the Apostles”—the memories of the Apostles. And there is no more important memory than what Our Lord did for us from the Cross. The Crucifix is more than an old photo and our celebration of the Mass is more than a memory of something that happened in the past.
In the second reading, St. Paul says: if we have grown into union with [Christ] through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection (Rom 6:5). This is why mom was a daily communicant for most of her life, and why at the same time, when our father was in his final illness she left off daily mass to take care of him. She remembered what God had done for her, and She was going to do the same, as well as she could, for her husband. Thank God, Mom and Dad are together once again.
Our mom had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Holy Rosary. St. John Paul called the Rosary the “memories of Mary.” If there is no more important memory than that of the sacrificial love of Jesus for us all from the Cross, then there is no more exemplary guardian of that memory than Jesus’ own Mother. St. Luke tells us twice in the second chapter of his gospel that Mary treasured and pondered in her heart the events that She witnessed in the life of her Son (cf., vv. 19, 51). This is one of the reasons why Catholics treat the Blessed Mother, not only as the Mother of Jesus, but as their Mother, because mothers are the guardians of memories and they teach their children not to forget.
Sometimes mothers remind us of things we wish they would forget. But they do that because they love us. Sometimes they remind us also of things we have forgotten. Our mother did not want us to forget God. Don’t allow God to become a distant memory like some past event captured in a photo. Our Lord says: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mat 24:25). What we do here today is a living memory that endures forever, like a mother’s love.
On a personal note, I would be remiss if I did not thank our mother for all the sacrifices she made for her sons. I entered religious life thirty-two years ago and have lived all over the world, but never again in California. Our mom made that sacrifice for the sake of the Church. That is who she was. Mom stood with Our Lady mom stood in solidarity with Christ at the foot of the Cross for the love of the Church.
So our mom taught us not to forget. Here is a poem she wrote about things she chose to remember:
Long Ago in a simple cave,
With a holy man and a holy maid,
And a little lamb ‘twas so tame,
The wise men came.
They brought gifts as the prophets told,
Some of incense, some of gold,
But the greatest gift they gave to him
Was their pure hearts free from sin.
Thanks Mom, for not letting us forget, and we won’t.