The business of “death” has been a part of my family for a long time. Let me explain because at first blush this sounds rather creepy. My father made a career in the funeral business. After he and a friend had a failed attempt at a business opportunity, he took a temporary job as a “counselor” for the Catholic Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. That temporary job lasted 25 years. After retiring from that position, he worked for Rosebrough Monument Company and then for Steiger Funeral Homes. In addition to that he was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese in 1986 and assisted at numerous funeral Masses for the Dead. My uncle is an ordained priest in the Catholic Church and has said many a Mass for the Dead and counseled many a family through their grief. My brother John is a minister in the United Church of Christ and has too presided over many funeral services. My brother Jeff is a fire chief for Osage Beach, MO and has dealt with death on a first hand basis in his job. My brother-in-law Brett is now an ordained permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and also serves at these liturgies. My wire Sarah and I, being the music ministers for St. Mary Magdalen, play at funeral masses quite often. We assisted at a Mass on Friday morning, will assist Sarah’s family Monday morning and again on Monday afternoon for another family at St. Mary Magdalen. You could say death surrounds us and again, as creepy as that sounds, it really isn’t. Death can be a beautiful thing. Let me try and explain.
Our pastor, Fr. Siefert, talks about how the death of a loved one brings family and friends together. As people gather to comfort each other, they begin to talk about the memories they shared with the deceased and how much the deceased meant to them. I saw that when my father died; I saw that when Sarah’s father died and I saw that again yesterday when Sarah and I went over to Peter’s house. I had not seen Pete since Karin had died and I wanted to go over to offer my condolences. I don’t know why, but I fully expected to get there and find himself alone. Quite the opposite. As I turned the corner on the street that led to his house, I immediately noticed a number of cars parked in front of Pete’s house. When I got there, Pete’s son Jacob, Jacob’s wife Christina, their son Sage, Christina’s mother and Sarah were already there. By the time I left to go back home, the numbers grew. His two daughters, Leah and Jessica were both there with friends, a few of my children (Grace, Tony and Teresa), Pete’s brother Tom and his daughter Jennifer were all there. Although some tears were understandably shed, they were not being shed out of pity or anguish, they were tears of joy remembering the lives of two beautiful women who had died and gone home; they were also tears of sorrow remembering the lives of two beautiful women who had died and are now missed. As the group was getting ready to leave and have dinner with each other, I asked Pete if he minded that I put some memories of Karin in one of my posts. He agreed. That will come Monday morning. Today, I wanted to offer some words of support to Peter.
After hearing about the sudden loss of Karin on Tuesday, my mind starting thinking about number of different things. I have spent the past couple of days praying for her, her mother and all of the family, most especially Peter, Leah, Jacob and Jessica. In my daily prayers, I ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit in all matters. I try to listen to see if any inspiration comes to me; the following thoughts came to me driving home last night and again this morning.
We who are married and make our sacramental vocation for the Church, profess vows to our spouse to love each other, be true to each other, to become one with each other. Honoring each other in all that we do because in honoring each other, we honor God. Peter and Karin professed those vows; but they didn’t just profess them – they made them part of their lives. Again, referring back to Fr. Siefert, it would be nice if marriage was all wine, song and roses – but it is not. Marriage, especially one professed before God, will be challenged. By whom? By what? By Satan himself. We must be prepared for that challenge as we read in Genesis, the first act of Satan was to stain the relationship between Adam, Eve and God – Satan challenged that vow of matrimony. Pete and Karin’s marriage was not immune to the challenge of Satan, but challenged for many years by a devil we know as alcohol. Karin struggled many years with this disease. To be honest, I never saw the dark side of what Karin and Pete dealt with. At all of the family get together’s – Christmas, Easter, Sunday meals at Mom’s, weddings, whatever – Karin was always the Karin I had always known. Fun loving, doting on all of the nieces and nephews, bragging about her children, talking about her job, talking about Pete’s job(s). But because of the closeness of the family, I knew Karin had this problem even if I had never witnessed the dark side of it. But Peter did. Peter fought this battle against Satan on a daily basis. What would have broken many marriages, what should have broken his, didn’t. Peter loved his wife Karin with all his being and fought bravely for her, fought bravely for his children against this Satan we call alcoholism. Peter was a warrior for his family and through his dedication to Karin, he has inspired me to love my family, my wife, that much deeper.
I have prayed all week for the repose of Karin’s soul and for her mother Ursula’s too. I hope that through Peter’s love of his wife and his daily battle against Satan, that God shows mercy on her soul. I truly believe that Karin shall she the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living – this land that we call Heaven. Even as much as I pray for Karin, I also pray for Peter. This man took a vow before God and never abandoned that vow – to love Karin with all of his heart, with all of his mind, with all of his strength and with all of his soul – until “death do us part”. I can’t imagine the grief he must feel right now. Peter, because of your bravery, you are a hero of mine. I can only hope that I act as brave as you have in fighting the snares of Satan himself.
Do something great for our Lord today – pray for His strength, pray for His guidance, pray for His love. And then thank Him for men of courage like His son Peter Schumacher.
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.
He must increase; I must decrease.