In keeping with my blog ‘ Before or After ‘ , I wish these lines were written earlier. But its with a sense of gratitude and joy that I write these lines.
My dear cousin Annette has just passed away ….rather, moved on to her final destination. She had battled with cancer. During this time she went through a wide range of thoughts, questions, and moments of despair. She was always faithfilled in life, and sought the Lord with great devotion. But her sense of abandonment surfaced towards the end , and as mentioned by the priest in his homily, this is a sign of holiness, which even Mother Teresa experienced much of her life…..why Jesus Christ Himself cried out while on the cross,‘ My Lord, my Lord , why has Thou forsaken me?
But thereafter, at the funeral service, the unexpected happened. This became a celebration of life. Annette was remembered by the way she had touched the life of her own family, and so many others. I was amazed to see the crowded church and packed cemetery. Her daughter Erica recounted with such joy, her mother’s faith; this with 3 specific miracles, before Erica’s birth. Though doctors had expressed grave concerns, during this time, eventually a healthy baby was born. Erica wore red….to express her joy for her mother. Her son Vernon, requested all in the church not to mourn and express condolences, but to celebrate with joy. Raul ( her daughter Sharon’s husband) recollected interesting discussions on faith, which moved him to an even more deeper trust in the Lord.This is what Annette wished. And when we returned to her home, SEAN’S NEST, we saw the dining table laden with the goodies that Annette always served us on our many previous visits. Her husband Sergio accepted all this with a spirit of calm and quietness.
The moments of prayer and quietness over, we shared the joys of happy memories. As a mother she was concerned, caring and watchful over her brood of 3 children. In an interesting incident , we heard how she once gave a surprise visit to a pub/disco , to check on her son who was one of the leading disc jockeys in Goa. She entered with the determination of a mother on mission, and guess what…..she saw her son at work…. Puffing away, cigarette In hand ….I do not know the aftermath of this incident…..its best left to one’s imagination.
Annette was one of my closest cousins, more like a sister, when I was young. After all, I had 4 brothers and no sisters. Even when I had started off with my own family, she would always make us so welcome on our visits to Goa.
During this most recent stage of her life, she became a whatsapp friendly person. These were times when we exchanged some very interesting , humorous and encouraging notes. I was privileged to see her until April 2017 , when most people were not being allowed to visit her. After this for the next few months , her whatsapp messages stopped and only Erica shared messages on her health conditions. Occassionaly I sent some scripture verses and prayers, to be voiced to Annette.
On the Sunday morning of 23rd July 2017, during my quiet time, the Lord moved me to read Wisdom 3:1-7a, 9 I quote:
‘ But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessing be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
they who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.’
I Immediately shared this Word with Erica, and that same evening Annette passed away.
My last view of Annette was at the end of the church service; but strangely I also saw at the far side of the church, the picture of the 13th station of the cross, depicting Jesus’ body being taken down from the cross…
It was not the end, as we all know; in the resurrection….there is a new life…. beyond….
Where mourning turns to dancing, and every tear is wiped away.
May you experience rest in Christ, and eternal joy, Annette.