From my post at OSV Daily Take today:
One year ago the Catholic writing world lost a precious gift and friend, Emilie Lemmons. I didn’t know Emilie personally but got to know her, as so many others did, through her moving and honest blog posts. As she faced the challenges of her illness and the reality of leaving behind her husband and sons, she made us all a little more aware of our own blessings, our own mortality, our own opportunities to create moments of joy even in times of strife. So I was thinking of Emilie this morning, because, as I wrote last year at the time of her death, she made a difference in my life even though we knew each other only through the blogosphere.
Then this morning I opened my local paper and saw the story of another faith-filled woman, Laura Schonhiutt, whose strength throughout her own terminal illness inspired an entire community, people who had been total strangers to her before they decided to put aside their own worries in favor of helping someone in need. At this woman’s funeral a couple of weeks ago, the women of her local community served as pallbearers, something that was symbolic of what they’d been doing all along. The article put it like this:
“‘These women carried my sister and all of us through a very difficult time,’ said her sister, Anne Skrebutenas. ‘We couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for these amazing women who came out of the woodwork to help us.’
“In her eulogy, Skrebutenas said her sister spoke in her final days with gratitude about the circle of friends in her adopted town. She had searched unsuccessfully for that sense of community and connectedness in Ohio for many years.
“Laura asked me, ‘Why do I have to go to heaven? I’ve found heaven right here in Niskayuna,’ her sister said.”
As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations and rejoice in our own sense of community and connectedness, it’s good, I think, to remember how precious this time on earth is and how these preparations we’ve been making throughout Advent are not just about getting ready for a joyous party here on earth but about getting ready for a joyous eternity in heaven. And we never know when that day will come, as the tales of these two women remind us.