On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Clarence at the death of your brother; and to Ellis, Gentry, Donna, Derrick and Celeste at the death of your father. Your children grieve, too, for their grandfather. Be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help your children grieve well. Evan, Ariane, Sawana and Craig, you will help your parents to experience your grandfather’s presence in real and new ways. All of Gentry’s family will experience his presence in real and new ways.
Today the Catholic church bids farewell to one of hers. I offer a few words to console and strengthen you in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in Gentry Lee Cooper Jr./1/
We are grateful, Donna, for your remembrance of your dad. Her spoken words and Celeste’s written words all of us have in the worship aid help us connect your brother, father and grandfather with the mystery of Jesus dying and rising we celebrate at his funeral mass.
I am grateful to Donna and Celeste for confirming what I observed about your father and your grandfather in the few years I have been at his longtime parish. “Man of faith” and “man of promise” are how their words and the words of scripture shape my remarks.
His fidelity allowed him to be generous and, together with your mother, to shape his family to be good and generous. Gentry encountered Jesus in a personal way through your mother, for whom he became Catholic and with whom he lived his faith in Jesus.
His relationship with Jesus expressed itself in his patient goodness. His goodness practiced reassures us that your father and grandfather, brother and uncle and friend, felt God’s power in his life. Holy Spirit is the name we give to God’s power. We heard St. Paul remind us, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
This was not easy. Gentry struggled with four cancers yet knew God’s loyalty and presence. You, his family and friends, and I face this time under the heavens. God has not changed God’s fidelity to Gentry. Gentry’s life is changed not ended./2/ That conviction of our faith challenges us to let go of him--he is not available to you, his family and friends, as he was. Still, our desire is to have him with us; and the assurance of our faith promises that we shall be reunited when Jesus returns in glory with salvation for his people./3/ It is while we await Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead and our reunion with them that we need to remember that promise and live from it as your father and grandfather, brother and uncle did.
Your father also modeled how to hold on to the promise of our faith. Donna told me that the Saturday your mother was buried she saw your Dad at her grave, speaking softly. Later, Donna asked Gentry what he said. He said he promised to visit Gwen’s grave every week. For 13 years, with a yellow rose in hand, Gentry fulfilled his promise. Hold on to that memory: his memory and his promise kept!
Jesus reminded us in the gospel, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and...has passed from death to life. Hear Jesus’ words as his promise to your father. Thank Jesus for the gift of your father and your mother; thank Jesus for their love, which made Jesus real to you. Remember they passed the faith to you. As they made its promise real for you, honor them by keeping the promise alive for one another and for everyone you meet.
1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Preface for Christian Death I, Roman Missal.
3. Penitential Rite (C,ii), Roman Missal.
Wiki-image by Elucidate of a yellow rose is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Wiki-image of the Resurrection is in the public domain.