I went to a non-denominational funeral-home gathering yesterday. The family of the deceased isn’t religious, so they chose an informal way to mark the passing of the loved one they lost.
Neighbours, friends and family gathered at the funeral home to reminisce about Susan, a vital 62-year-old who died suddenly and completely unexpectedly last week. I hadn’t known her well so it was an opportunity to see pictures of her enjoying vacations, family weddings and glimpses of her growing-up years.
I found it sad that many of us there were only learning about these facets of her life after she was gone.
After the gathering, my husband, Guy, and I headed for St. Michael’s Hospital to visit my father-in-law. The hospital is next-door to Toronto’s historic St. Michael’s Cathedral, a beautiful 160-year-old church where the renowned choir from St. Michael’s Choir School sings.
As we approached the hospital, I saw the choirboys in their crested jackets and ties, holding their red music books, filing into church. They were like pint-sized Pied Pipers — we ended up following them inside. I wanted to say a prayer and light a candle for Susan and we both had my father-in-law’s health on our minds.
“Music is well said to be the speech of angels.”
— Thomas Carlyle
I love that quote and that’s exactly what came to mind when those 60 sweet voices sent the first notes of “Gloria” soaring up into every vaulted corner of the cathedral.
It was like a key unlocking the sadness I’d felt earlier in the day. I murmured my tearful prayers for the living and the dead as the choir continued in beautiful harmony — their “speech of the angels” reminding me that someone was listening.
Then I saw something that made me smile. One of the honey-throated choirboys was biting his nails between verses, probably counting the minutes till he could turn his phone back on and text his friends.
After mass, there was actually a lineup of people waiting to light the candles. I realized a lot of the people there probably had family or friends in the hospital next door. I waited for a break in the action, then found a candle on the top row of the stand, which I lit from one of the others.
Unfortunately, the stick I was using sort of caught fire and by waving it around, I almost ignited the hair of an innocent elderly bystander praying on the kneeler beside me. St. Mike’s wisely provides a container of sand beside the candles for such mishaps and I was able to extinguish it before any sirens went off.
Later, after our hospital visit, we walked past a man trying to park his sedan in a spot meant for a Mini. Guy got his attention and told him we were headed to our car down the block and were just leaving if he wanted the space. My good-deed hero.
P.S. Here’s the Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus” from the Vienna Boys Choir. Enjoy!