Saturday, October 19, 2019

Words for My Aunt

Note: Joan Kuziemko, my mother’s sister, died on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Flushing Hospital at the age of 73. She lived in Elmhurst, N.Y., all her adult life. She never married and never had a family of her own. She worked in the billing department at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan until it closed in 2010. She enjoyed traveling, going on cruises, and watching horse racing. She could make dolls and was crafty in other ways. She was also a very thoughtful gift giver at holidays. I wish she could have had more life in her life, being alone and independent as she was always. But I hope she will be received into the heavenly banquet and find a comfortable place for herself now.

“Dancing with the angels” is a great image for the kingdom of God. As it happens, Aunt Joannie had drop foot and back and leg problems that slowly invalided her in the last five years of her life. I hope that in the new creation, in the resurrection, she can move as freely as she wishes.

Thanks as always, dear readers, for your prayers and loving concern. It always fills me with consolation and encouragement. The following are some thoughts that came to mind on the day before Joannie’s funeral.

Words for Joan Kuziemko (July 2, 1946—October 16, 2019)

You may recall one of the miracle stories in the Gospels where Jesus heals a paralytic. This is the event where Jesus shows that he can forgive sins because he can make a person who is paralyzed stand up, pick up his mat, and walk.

This episode tells us good news about God, namely, that the God who made us also saves us from our wrongs and both sustains and renews our very life, in body and soul and spirit. But this episode also tells us something about ourselves. It tells us that through our faith, God’s grace can move us out of the paralysis that comes over us when we are stuck in our sin. This gives us grounds for hope, both for ourselves gathered here today, and also for Aunt Joannie, whom we ask God to gather into the heavenly cloud of witnesses.

All of us are aware of the real paralysis that came over Joannie’s body in the last years of her life. And all of us regret that she could not overcome another, deeper paralysis, a paralysis of spirit, perhaps, that kept her from asking for more help to stand up, to pick up her mat, and walk again and live. But it is hard to do that, I know, to surrender control and put your trust in others, to put your trust in God. How hard it is to dare to tear a hole in the roof and lower ourselves, to set ourselves before Jesus in God’s house.

Aunt Joannie’s paralysis was not unique. We all suffer some paralysis of the spirit. We lack courage, we lack hope, we lack faith.

But it’s never too late to change. We believe in the resurrection of the body. We believe Christ is risen. So let us put our faith in God through the risen Christ, once again. Let us dare once again to love one another. Let us show by our good works the faith we desire, until we can hear the voice of the Risen One say to us, as he says today to Joannie from paradise, “My child, your sins are forgiven. You are forgiven.”

West Babylon, N.Y., October 18, 2019 (Feast of Saint Luke)

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