Dominic C. Delsander funeral (16 Aug 2009)
Eccl 3. 1-14; Ps ; Rv 14.13; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Connection and Compassion
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend my prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Mary Anne at the passing of your spouse of more than 50 years. I recall celebrating your golden anniversary, and I hope your memory of it will crown the many memories you treasure as well as all you negotiated in your life together.
I extend the same prayerful support to Mark, Mimi and Aimee. Not having your father in your lives turns a new and difficult corner for you. We have gathered for you: to help you to be more courageous than grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help you grieve well. You will help each other experience your dad’s presence in real and new ways.
I also extend our prayers and sympathy to your children. It’s difficult for you, too, to let go of your grandfather. Your parents will help you to do that, hard as it is. Let them know when you need help to let go of him. You will grow with many memories of your grandfather and his love for you.
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 Dominic Delsander.1 I want to reflect briefly with you on the scriptures Dom’s family chose for his funeral mass.
You chose scripture readings because of the comfort they afford you and can afford you and the friends of Dom. Along with comfort you saw in them power to celebrate his life. Allow me to begin in the present.
These days have been exhausting for you as well as Dom. In hospitals time moves like a glacier for patients and family and friends. When progress eludes us, frustration mounts, and everything feels futile. The Book of Ecclesiastes long ago testified to that. In words following its very familiar ones about the futility of time, we heard these: God has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without humans’ ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. The season of death has visited a lively man, who set down his years; that season challenges you to place him into God’s heart and carve a new place for him in your hearts.
As you do that you will continue to live like Dom: faithful. Faithful was your first description to me of the shape of Dom’s life. Dom’s faithfulness was not mere piety or Sunday-only observance. Dom’s faith was his close relationship with God, whom he addressed as Lord. “The Lord has blessed me incredibly” fell frequently from his lips. In these last weeks, another sentence took on meaning which was realistic and more urgent: “Whatever the Lord wants [I want].”
We who knew Dom know that last sentence was not resignation or fatalism. When you called me, Mary Anne, to tell me that Dom had refused treatment, you confirmed what my many visits to Dom indicated to me: Dom was tired of and frustrated with treatment that didn’t work effects for him. When I visited him that afternoon, I gave Dom communion, then I told him, “Mary Anne called me and told me the latest. Dom, you tell me the latest.” He said, “I can’t take [the treatments] anymore. I would if I could, but I can’t.”
His second sentence, “I would if I could, but I can’t,” revealed much. Dom would have persevered as he had done in many other ways for you, his family, his friends, his beloved Cathedral Latin High School, Gesu Choir, Gesu Parish and his community. He realized and accepted that his blessed life with you and for you had reached its completion. His rich, blessed and full life is his legacy to you, me and many people.
His concern for people, his generous heart, his helping hand and his readiness to go out of his way to help others feel comfortable concretely express Dom’s desire to connect with people. Human connection is relationship, and our faith-relationship is the grateful response humans offer God our Lord. Faith was Dom’s foundation for living in the world without being consumed by it. He lived simply, he practiced prudence and he enjoyed his life, particularly his retirement, which was his active relaxation. Dom received God’s love. That allowed Dom to love deeply his family, to show Christian concern to others and to enjoy an abiding awareness of God present in everyplace Dom found himself.
That is Dom’s Christian legacy to you and all of us who miss him. While we live in our limited ways, God abides with us. The Book of Ecclesiastes called this mystery of God with us the timeless, and all created things share in it, we humans most of all.
A few things which reflect the timeless, which reflect God, are music, humor, citizenship. Dom enjoyed them. Mary Anne, you and Dom enjoyed a musical your first date. All of us expected Dom’s humor to have its flavor of sweet corn. Greater Cleveland bids farewell to one of its lawyers and University Heights to one of its Citizens of the Year.
Those and many other ways you know better then I do participate in the timeless, in God’s surpassing power. Through them Dom embodied God’s compassionate respect for him and for each person. Compassion shapes Christian citizenship. Our citizenship allows us to stand in two worlds, our daily lives and our longing to enjoy fully our life in the Lord. Dom knew we are ultimately citizens in the Lord, and to share fully in the life in the Lord means letting go of the world we know for life in the Lord our faith tells us is more real and timeless. Dom knew the way. Dom was at peace with his ultimate future, even though his absence in death creates a deep hole in our lives.
The season of death gives way to God’s life fully, and Dom is reunited with his deceased loved ones and with all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Dom’s physical absence does not destroy your bonds with him. The paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising opens onto another season, the communion of saints. Our union as God’s saints is timeless: those who died in Jesus; we who live and abide in Jesus; as well as those yet to be born and behold the variety of God’s activity are truly one, without [our] ever discovering how.
In this new season of eternal life, in which we share impartially, you enjoy yet another saint interceding for you, so you will persevere in discovering the new ways Dom will be present to you, and how you will extend his legacy and grow more compassionate in and by your lives.
- Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, #27.