Far & Near — Funeral Homily for Kay Diederich, 85

“Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I climb the heavens, you are there;
if I descend into the netherworld, you are there.
If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest edge,
Even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand hold me fast.”

The words of this psalm come to my mind when I consider Kay’s journeys. She is one of the most widely-travelled people I have ever encountered. She journeyed not only throughout these United States, but in Europe, Africa, and Asia; twice walking stretches of the Camino, joining a parish mission trip to Kenya, bike-touring Vietnam. It would not surprise me all that much if there’s a photograph somewhere of her standing next to a penguin. Fittingly, even in death she travels, from Lake Tahoe some 1,500 miles to here for this funeral and her burial in Wisconsin.

St. Paul’s Parish is pleased to host you all and to offer our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for Kay’s soul and your consolation; because the Church, wherever you may be, is your home. That’s something great about the Church. Even if your family were vacationing together in another U.S. state, even if Kay were exploring a distant country, this Church could be found there. A home even away from home.

Kay’s mortal remains have been brought here to Bloomer to be buried alongside the remains of her beloved Joe in the hometown of his youth. They will be buried together with family and other Christians who have passed on before us.

The story of Kay’s passing is a beautiful one. In addition to those at her bedside, of her children, their spouses and her grandchildren were able to accompany her through her final hours via the modern wonder of Zoom. Kay listened to their stories and words of love while fading off more and more. After two hours, while her loved ones were saying goodbye, Kay took her leave as well, passing then and there. The reality of our mortality is an ugly, broken thing, but Kay had a beautiful death.

In the gospel were heard, I am moved by St. Thomas’ reaction to the news that Jesus will be departing. Thomas loves Jesus and doesn’t want to be separated from him: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?!” Jesus encourages his companions, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He promises to lead his friends, to shepherd them, to the Father’s house to be reunited together again. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

The death of loved ones is saddening because they are no longer physically present to us, but death does not disconnect the relationship of love; for neither death, nor life, nor any created thing will be able to separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord. If human Zoom technology can connect people thousands of miles apart on earth, surely God is able to keep us spiritually connected, helping and consoling each other even beyond this life.

In her last dying days, St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, told her children: “Bury my body wherever you will…. Only one thing I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” You who love Kay, pray for her and be faithful to Christ, but do not let your hearts be troubled. Whether you find yourself in Michigan, Nevada, or Wisconsin, even if you journey to African deserts or Antarctic tundras, on your life’s mountain tops and in your dark valleys, there is no place you can go where Kay and our Lord will not be with you. They shall hold you fast.

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