It's the kind of parish too where you see familiar faces at mass every week. Some of these faces get so familiar that when you see them at other places like the grocery store, they are comfortable, so you wave and smile - especially at the grocery store. My fellow parishioners are very friendly at the local grocery store!
But even when you see each other every week, you don't necessarily know everyone's name.
I had an opportunity to exchange names with one such lady this past summer. We were in our church hall for a party or doughnut Sunday - I can't really even remember any more (not that it matters). A lady whom I had seen around the church was standing behind me and I took the opportunity to compliment her on the dress she was wearing. Her name was Cathy and we started chatting from there.
She told me how she had found her dress and how important it was for her to look modern and pulled together, but not old or dowdy. As another 50 something, I could relate and we talked about how hard it was to find fashions that fit our middle aged bodies that made us look well dressed, but not matronly like our own mothers, or like we were trying to be our teenage daughters! She also told me she would like to veil at mass and I told her I had had that idea too but was kind of reluctant to do it because I didn't want people to think I was trying to be "holier than thou" or draw attention to myself.
All in all, it was a very nice conversation and we parted as friendly new acquaintances. A few weeks later I saw her again in jeans and a t-shirt as she was getting ready to go with our teens to the yearly Franciscan University Youth Conference. Even though she was dressed like the kids (which all the chaperons are supposed to anyway) she had her own style. She had a cute short summer hairdo that was contemporary but age appropriate, framed by cute sun glasses. Most of all she showed that although she was there for fun and sharing, she was still the authority there and my girls tell me they respected that. Every time I saw her after that I waved or smiled and took note of what she wore, usually vowing to up my own game in the mature Catholic woman style and flare department.
My sister told me that Cathy even started wearing a mantilla or veil to mass which we both admired, but are still somewhat hesitant to do.
Cathy died unexpectedly and very suddenly last weekend. She was only 52 years old with daughters about Izzy's and Rosie's ages. Her funeral was Thursday. The church was packed - not quite Christmas Day packed, but pretty close. She had five priests co-officiating and our pastor said the mass and gave a wonderful homily. Proverbs 31 was one of the readings and I couldn't help but think that it was so very appropriate for her, as judging by her friends and family, she had truly embodied that proverb. Her daughters were devastated of course, but the outpouring of love and affection towards them for their mom was such a tribute to her. In the years to come I'm sure they'll appreciate that.
For me, I'm just happy I got a chance to talk to her ever so briefly. Even that small encounter challenged, inspired and blessed me. I'm sure that she didn't feel that her work here on earth was done, but I think from all of the affection and grief I saw at her funeral mass, it was clear that she made a difference in the time she had. I'm also sure that every time I hear or read proverbs 31, Cathy will come to mind.
Javcon 117 via Flickr licensed CC