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24 January 2004 - 14:57

on a dare

It started on a dare.

A young man, rebuffed by the pretty young woman he had asked to escort home, is teased by a friend for his failure. And turns to the friend, and asks if he thinks he could do any better.

So the friend asks.

And she says "yes".

And so it began.

The courtship bloomed, and the daring young man and his beau were soon married.

And now it is 65 years later. He stands facing her one last time, his lips moving to make words that only she was close enough to hear. Having one last, silent conversation before the men from the mortuary will step forward to seal her coffin. Locking her away forever.

It was a hard moment to watch. My hand sought my Mom's, feeling the slight shake of tears shuddering through her as she watched her older brother say goodbye, tears that I finally share now.

This was the first Catholic funeral for me, at least where the departed was Catholic. And like a good blogger, I made mental notes of things to record here.

The sprinkling of the holy water on the coffin, the laying of a vested shroud over the metal casket, and wheeling it up towards the altar, followed by the family. The modern design of the church, with five wedges of pews surrounding the altar from three sides. Most impressive was the ceiling, great curved wooden beams sweeping in from both sides to rise and meet, almost out of sight, in the middle.

I'm sure the designer didn't intend it, but I constantly had the feeling of being in drydock, sitting and standing between the sides of two great wood ships. By the stained glass windows and open design, I would guess it was built in the '70s. A young building, just now working on its second generation of worshippers.

Me, I prefer old churches. Buildings with history, buildings that have aged and grown with their congregation. The Lutheran church of our family in Nebraska, with the heavy, dark wood and finely detailed stained glass windows... now, that is a church to visit.

This was my first Mass where the priest sang parts of the service. He had a good, deep voice, would have been perfectly in place in an abbey full of monks. You could tell he was a kindly man, the sort you could invite to pizza after Mass. Who went out of his way to explain what was happening, and why, for the many who were not of his faith. Warning us when the members would need to kneel, and when to stand.

Who added the last words to the Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer, a gesture of courtesy to the many protestants attending. 'Course, at the graveside services, they went back to the abbreviated Catholic version, which left some voices hanging alone out in the open Colorado air.

You could certainly tell where the groom's side of the family was standing.

Yes, the priest mispronounced the family name throughout the service. A common mistake, hardly something to hold a grudge about. He had not known my aunt personally, but remembered her attendance, her regular seat in Mass.

The place her husband and sons sat now.

He remembered her pain, the difficulties she had in the last years of her long life. And perhaps most important of all, he remembered the dedication and help she received from her husband. The demonstration of the true love they shared.

All because of a dare.

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