“There is a presence who walks the road of life with you.
This presence accompanies you every moment.
It shadows your every thought and feeling.
On your own, or with others, it is always there with you.
When you were born, it came out of the womb with you; with the excitement at your arrival, nobody noticed it.
Though this presence surrounds you, you may still be blind to its companionship.
The name of this presence is death”
Today we once again gather here in this chapel to remember one of our own who has died and crossed over to the other side of life.
We come face-to-face with the mystery of what it is to die and enter the realm of eternal life.
On this day we gather to give thanks for the life of Declan and to pray for a release of suffering for her – just in case she still has some pain on her journey Home.
As we pray, we draw on the consoling and tender words of Isaiah which promised and reassures us that God will wipe away all tears.
And so today we give our loved one – Declan – into the care of a God of mercy and tenderness. But, as part of doing so, let us briefly recall with gratitude something of who she was for us, for other people and for God as we experienced her in life.
There are many things that could be said about Declan but in conversations with different people who knew her and worked with her two things in particular stand out – firstly, that she was so very committed to serving others and she did it with exceptional kindness; and secondly, that she knew how to be a true friend as evidenced by the many people who have gathered here today to say farewell.
In the past few days Sisters have said of her:
“She was a kind and friendly sister in community”
“She was my friend”
“She was helpful and kind to “young sisters” in the hospital in years past”
Carers have said:
“Sr Declan loved us and always liked to see us”
“She was gentle even though she had pain at times”
Wherever Declan went she gave of her best in service of others. She sure never slacked on the job and was known to be very caring of patients and attentive and supportive of staff. However, even the briefest conversations with Declan always revealed that the happiest years of her life were spent in Kalgoorlie.
In an attempt to understand why this was so, I tried to explore the secret of life in Kal with our Chaplain just the other day. I asked him why it seemed that all the priests (including himself), the Sisters from many different congregations and a number of future Bishops who served in Kalgoorlie in years past, seemed to have had such a strong bond and why they remembered the place so fondly? He chuckled a little at my suggestion that they seemed a clannish lot but didn’t deny it! However, as the conversation evolved it became quite evident that all these people formed a supportive community with and for each other and when times got tough they stuck together. They knew how to have fun too and they took care of each other. So that was the extended community in which Declan lived and functioned on a day to day basis. It is no surprise then that she had such fond memories of Kalgoorlie and found it difficult to leave the goldfields.
Declan did of course spend many more productive years in Geraldton, followed by three years in Dardanup before coming here to the Villa in retirement.
And so we know Declan to have been a faithful servant, a woman dedicated to others, a very reliable person, a woman who suffered especially in the latter years. We also knew her to be a woman of faith, who was straightforward and consistent.
In the words of Meister Eckhart, Declan was and indeed we all are born with God’s seed in us. Our lives are the womb that brings that seed to birth. We are coded for God; we are programmed for heaven; we are an incompleteness searching for completeness. As rivers flow and winds blow, so, too, the human heart, with its imagination, affections and creativity, will never be – cannot ever be – other than God bound.
Karl Rahner reminds us: “There is no such thing, either in the world or in the heart, as literal vacancy, as a vacuum. And wherever space is left by death… by parting, by apparent emptiness… there is God.
For a moment now – in silence – we remember what Declan looked like – her voice, face and presence. And now we picture her in the arms of God – the Compassionate One who carefully and lovingly wipes away any tears that might still be on her face. We notice how God offers her a great welcome.
Just a week ago Sr Veronica shared the following verse with Declan. When Veronica had finished reading it Declan asked her to read it again, which suggested that it spoke to her. Veronica read it again and so, it seemed appropriate for us to share it here today.
Know you the journey that I take?
Know you the voyage that I make?
The joy of it one’s heart could break.
No jot of time have I to spare;
No will to linger anywhere,
So eager am I to be there,
For that the way is hard and long,
For that grey fears upon it throng,
I set my going to a song.
And it is wondrous happy so Singing,
I hurry on – for oh
It is to God – to God I go.
Thanks Veronica for sharing that with us because from where we stand now there is something comforting in knowing that those words spoke to Declan in the hours before she died.
And so we join our Eucharistic celebrant today – Fr Pat – in offering our prayers of thanks for the gift of having had Declan as part of our lives as John of Gods.
Sr. Pauline O’Connor