Emily Lippert funeral (08 Jan 2010) Lam 3. 17-26; Ps 23; 1Co 12.31-13.8; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J.
Cheering Us On
With Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Lance and Maureen, at the sudden death of your beloved Emmy; to you Lauren and Matt, at the sudden death of your sister, Em; and to her grandmothers, Mary and Constance; her aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. From around the block to elsewhere in Ohio; from Grosse Ile and Milan, Michigan, to Fort Myers, Florida, and other locations, people are deeply sad for you and with you, Matt and Lauren, Maureen and Lance and your extended family.
I extend our prayers and support to the Beaumont High School family, who have lost their dear friend, Lippy. I extend prayerful support to the St. Ignatius High School family, as well as to all the Gesu parishioners. We’re again face to face with death stealing one of our children and other adults in the prime of life. We are weighed down by this terribly painful, unanswerable riddle of life. The loss death heaves on us is always painful, and it’s sharper when Emily, so young, with a promising future ahead of her, is no longer with us with her bright smile, her winning ways and her enthusiastic vitality. What to do?
We gather again in prayer, as we have since the beginning of the week. Our continued presence here and yesterday at Schulte-Mahon-Murphy Funeral Home testify to how Emily reached and touched the lives of so many. Yet her absence from all our lives distorts our thoughts, feelings and dreams. So, I am bound to speak to you, Em’s family, to her Beaumont family, to the St. Ignatius High School family as well as to her brother- and sister-parishioners of Gesu. I have no answers, but I do dare to suggest something to help you be more courageous than your grief is sharp; to trust our Messiah Jesus to reveal a new presence of new kind, a very real kind of presence of Em with you and us.
When my father died almost nine years ago, I had finished a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. She placed words on the lips of one of her characters, a family’s youngest son. I am the younger son of two children, which may be why the words of Judson Mulvaney caught my heart.
“I want to set down what is truth. Everything recorded here happened, and it’s my task to suggest how and why. Why what might seem to be implausible or inexplicable at a distance... isn’t implausible or inexplicable from within. ...As Dad used to say, in that way of his that embarrassed us—it was so direct you had to respond immediately and dared not even glance away—‘We Mulvaneys are joined at the heart.’”1
For us that “within,” that heart-bond is our faith, which draws us closer than our sorrow. Maureen, Lance, Lauren and Matt, today we are all Lipperts because our faith joins us to you. Today, we are all Lipperts just as we all were Stranieros less than a month ago. Today we are all Lipperts with you just as we were Murphys three and half months ago, and we were all Kinmonths the day before that, and we were all Scivittaros two days before in that week which still reeks havoc on our hearts. Five weeks before that we were all Smiths. A year before that we were all Coburns.
Today we are all Lipperts just as we were all Arons over two years ago; just as we were all Lonsdales three days before that; and we were all Hulls three months before that; and we were all Hylands and Butlers before that; on the same day five months before that we were Hanrahans one hour and Felices hours earlier. Each time death weighs us down and tries to sap our desire to live, our faith, the faith of Jesus, rallies us, and we stand with each other as one.
Joined at the heart by the faith of Jesus this way, we’re aware—even dimly—of being invited beyond ourselves with whomever needs us and help one another move onward. Yes, it’s very hard. Yet despite our overflowing emotions and feelings, our actions to stand with you, Lance, Maureen, Matt and Lauren, remind us of Jesus’ words, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. Em would remind us of that because of her deep affection for all her families and all her friends. While our sudden separation from her friendship, her smile, and her gentleness never extinguished by her competitive athleticism conspire to make us ignore that she rests with Jesus, Jesus reminds us that Em rests with Jesus, who will reunite us.
Matt, Lauren, Maureen and Lance, I know the families of John, Danny and Frank, no longer with us in the way they once were, don’t have it easy three weeks or three months distant from entrusting their loved one ones to God. They can tell you that; and at the same time that they miss them sorely still. Fr. Snow and I can tell you the same thing about missing our parents. So very slowly the days will stop standing still. Or as Arnold Paskay told you, Maureen, “The days will get better.” We’re all Lipperts with you today; we will continue to stand with you in days, weeks, months and years to come.
And that novel I finished when my Dad died also told the story of a family secret, which dimmed the light of its family’s bright, early history. To everyone I plead: don’t let your grief morph into your secret. To Em’s friends and peers; to you Matt and Lauren: don’t be like me; when I was a teenager I let my grief over my grandmother morph into my secret, and it slowed my healing for a long time. Don’t be like me when I was your age. Write your feelings and your thoughts to help you share them with someone you trust and who trusts you. That goes for adults, too. Sharing feelings isn’t debating them; sharing them gets them out. If silence follows getting out your feelings, that’s good, for as we heard, It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.
Emily brightened our lives so much we have more than our sorrow to share. She looked so happy, and the scores of photos and the video ours eyes took in at Schulte-Mahon-Murphy not only showed Em’s happiness, they showed your happiness being with her. That makes her absence so very hard. Yet, you are blessed with memories, which refuse to let our tears drown our smiles; or our love for her; or our faith in our Risen Jesus.
Emily brightened this altar when she served Mass. Emily brightened the halls of Gesu School and Beaumont High School blending friendship, straight As, athletic skill on fields, in the pool and on her toes in quadrilles of Irish step-dancing. Emily also brightened Honduras when she visited it with Gesu. Emily brightened our lives in so many ways. Your daughter, your sister, your granddaughter, your niece, your cousin, your friend brought out the best in you and others. Jane Evans expressed that concretely. Lauren told me Mrs. Evans said, “Emily is the girl I told everyone I want my daughter to be [like].”
Not having Emily with us the way she was, bringing forth the best from us, is painfully sad. Yet our risen Jesus blesses our sadness so the days will get better. They will because Emmy has given us so many memories to treasure and to shape our futures. With Jesus she makes us all Lipperts to help each other to remember, even if we have strength to do it one moment at a time, that our faith draws us closer than our sorrow. Emily asks us to continue to love her by supporting each other and patiently loving one another with our heart-bond of faith, which she brought to life in ways which are her legacy. Because with Jesus she makes us all Lipperts today, her legacy is ours, too. Emily smiles on us, cheering us to embody her legacy in each one’s style. We can, and we will because Emily is with us in a very real way so we will always remember her and refuse to let our tears drown our smiles or our love for Emily or our faith in our Risen Jesus, who one day will reunite us with her and everyone who is, was and will be.
- We Were the Mulvaneys (©1996 The Ontario Review, Inc; © 2001 Recorded Books).
Wiki-image of Resurrection is in the public domain. Wiki-photo by Boehringer Friedrich of a Turk lily is used according the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.