When I was little, I loved going places with my Aunt Brenda. We had a lot of fun together but sometimes our outings turned into adventures. On one fall afternoon, we were driving along going somewhere and we got lost. According to my aunt, as she was trying to figure out how to get back on track, I spoke up from the back seat and said, “Nonda, will we make it home for Christmas?”
At this time of year especially, we all long to be home with family and friends. Like the Christmas song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
For me, as a child, being home for Christmas included going to Granny and Dee’s house in Western Hills and in that subdivision is where I first meet Angie Patterson. Of course, I had no idea then that her name was Angie. As far as I knew, her name was Travis, Turtle, Patrick and Ree Ree’s mom. To get to my grandparent’s house, you had to drive past the Patterson’s. This house was a major hub of activity in that neighborhood. There were always lots of kids there and I know this suited Angie. Family was her priority.
The readings that we have heard today were chosen by Angie’s family and they have a message for us that is reflected in her life.
The first reading was taken from the book of Job. It is the story of a man who endures great suffering and his faith in God is tested. Angie endured difficulties in her life, not the least of which was her battle against Alzheimer’s. When she received her diagnosis, it would have been easy for her to turn away from God and wallow in self-pity. She could have blamed God for the suffering that lay in store for her, but she didn’t. Instead, she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. She went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. Her family describes this as her greatest spiritual adventure. Instead of turning away from faith, she embraced it and drew strength from it.
In the second reading, St. Paul is writing to the very early Church. He is offering words of comfort and hope to people who are grieving the loss of loved ones. This grief can be particularly strong during the holidays. This is the time of year when we gather together with family and friends. The joy that we normally feel is lessened by the absence of those who have gone before us, but St. Paul reminds us that we have hope. This great hope gave Angie strength. She knew that death from this life is not the end. She knew that, because of Christ, whose birth we have just celebrated, we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.
Christmas morning, my aunt Brenda told me, “Everybody loved Angie- not because she tried to make people like her, but because she was Angie and she loved everyone.” Turtle told me that her default greeting was “Hi darlin’!” with arms wide open. Angie knew that love is not about how others make you feel; it’s all about how you make them feel. It’s about service and spreading joy. Angie gave witness to this truth in her life:
- working at Dairy Queen, The Fork & Spoon or The Snack Shop, where she always greeted people with a smile
- at home when she cared for her children and grand-children and when she taught them how to play sports
- in her free time, singing and acting. Sharing her talents with others.
She has given us all an example to follow.
In the Gospel, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Places where there is no pain, or sorrow, or sickness, or Alzheimer’s. This is where Angie is now.
Saint Bernadette, the young lady who witnessed the appearances of Mary at Lourdes said this:
“I shall do everything for Heaven, my true home. There I shall find my Mother in all the splendor of her glory. I shall delight with her in the joy of Jesus himself in perfect safety.”
The other day on the phone, Turtle told me, “Mom is home now.” She truly is home and she is waiting to be reunited one day with you all.