The Highway — Funeral for Alvera “Veda” Hassemer, 88

St. Paul’s parish is honored to offer our greatest prayer, Christ’s sacrifice, for Veda. We also hope our prayer may be a consolation to you, who know and love her best. Veda was member of our parish throughout her life, though I never had an opportunity to meet her. For the last couple years she lived in a Chippewa Falls memory care-facility, but her children have told me some of her story. Veda’s Catholic faith, I am told, was the most important thing in her life. Her devotion to our Lord is reflected in today’s readings, which she pre-selected herself for her funeral. I often make note when I preach at funerals that no brief homily can capture the fullness and mystery of a faithful Christian life. But the features and details of such lives can help reveal the truth of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

When Veda and Arnie got married in 1952, they settled on a dairy farm; accepting the hard, demanding work that comes with milking cows. It happens that their farm was situated a literal stonesthrow away from St. Catherine’s Catholic Cemetery, where Veda’s body will be buried today. Arnie and Veda lived and worked upon the dust of this earth, and in this same dust their earthly remains will lay side by side. But the toilsome labor of farm life and the lifeless stillness of the grave are not the sum of their story. Between the farm and the cemetery there is a road, Highway 64. Arnie and Veda took that road several miles to a new home, here in Bloomer. They did good in this community; he founded his Shoeland and sold his cookies, she nursed at Maplewood and maintained the house, and together they loved and blessed their children.

I’m told that Veda loved animals. Especially, four-legged fuzzy ones. Cows and horses were not her favorites though, and not only because of their lack of fuzz. When her son Michael was two years old, he wandered out near a horse. The horse reared up to kick him, potentially fatally, but Veda intervened. She stretched out her leg into the horse’s path and took the blow. She saved her son and bore the mark for the rest of her life.

Christ is the Good Shepherd, and we are his fuzzy, four-legged sheep. When we were threatened by eternal death, he intervened. He stretched out his limbs and took the blow. He saved us and bears the marks in his body to this day. Our lives are not reducible to a short journey of toil to the grave. Jesus Christ shows us a way, his narrow road, in between. That humble road, his highway, leads to a whole world above inhabited by billions who continue to do good. Jesus would invite us to a new home with him there, until our bodies and this broken world is someday resurrected and restored in him. “Therefore, our God, we give you thanks and we praise the majesty of your name,” and our sadness at Veda’s passing is lightened by our faith and hope in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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