What Urban Missionaries Do

You have heard me say many times in the past, “there is no such thing as an easy day.” When Kathy and I were on vacation in early March, I received a message from the office that Cindy called and was very upset because of her 32-year-old niece had died. I immediately dialed Cindy’ number and after a few rings I heard, “Hello.” “Cindy, this is Walter Doyle calling,” I said and in a voice racked with pain and sobbing I heard, “Walt, my niece died this morning” and then I was unable to understand what Cindy was trying to tell me because she was trying to talk and sob at the same time. Finally, I interrupted her and told her I would be home in two days and would call her then.

When I arrived home, I called Cindy. This time she was more composed and I was able to get the full story. Her niece was 32 and died from pancreatic cancer. She had checked herself out of the hospital deciding it was of no use when it became evident she was going to die. She went home and laid on her bed for three days and on the third day she went to sleep and never woke up.

Cindy then told me how her niece was getting her life together in the past year. She had met a wonderful guy who respected her and didn’t beat her as her first husband did. She had gotten away from the booze and drugs and she was working hard to get herself a job so she could support herself and her 9-year-old son. And then this happened! I just listened to the whole story and when Cindy finished all I could hear was her sobbing.  After a while I said, “Cindy what can we do to help?” “Can I come and talk to you later? The family doesn’t know what they are going to do. They are trying to raise money to have her buried,” she said. “OK,” I said, “How about you stop by tomorrow and we can talk?” “OK,” she replied, “I will see you tomorrow, thanks, Walt.”

When Cindy arrived the next afternoon she walked into the office came right up to me, hugged me and burying her head on my chest started to bitterly sob. We stayed like that for a good fifteen minutes before she started to regain her composure. Then Cindy recounted the whole story to me once again. When she finished explaining everything that had happened and what the current situation was, she asked if I could help out with the flowers.  The family had pulled together the monies for the funeral, but there wouldn’t be enough to buy flowers. “Yes, we can do the flowers, just let me know where to send them by what date and we will take care of it for the family,” I said. “I will Walt,” she replied. “And if you would like me to do a burial service for her as I did for your mother, let the family know and get back to me if they say it is OK,” I said. Cindy nodded yes, and then hugged me for another 5 minutes before she said, “Thanks Walt, I will get back to you as soon as I get the answers for you,” and then she left.

A few days later, Cindy called and affirmed the flowers and the service would be fine with the family and then she gave me the time and place for the funeral service. I thanked her and said, “Cindy we are praying for you and the family. We hope it will help you through this most difficult of times.”

The night of the burial service, I met a number of the family that I had not seen since their mother passed away, and I did the burial service. Most of the people there looked like they were in shock. Everyone said the same thing, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe she died.” I finally heard that she would be cremated and her mother was going to keep her ashes in her home. It was a very difficult burial service but I had prepared a short homily, and then I invited anyone who wanted to say something to come up and speak. Three people spoke about this very vibrant young woman full of energy and a love of life. The most difficult part was when her nine-year-old son came up and stood looking at his mother and whispered, “Good-bye mom.”

It is a situation like this that makes me stop and think about how fragile life really is, and how none of us really know the time when we will be called home. I haven’t seen or heard from Cindy since, but I pray for her and the family daily.

Saints of God, come to her aid!

Hasten to meet her, angels of the Lord!

May Christ, who called you, take you to himself;

may angels lead you to the bosom of Abraham.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon her.

Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.