Invited Home ― Funeral Homily for Kathleen Zwiefelhofer, 82

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In my priesthood, I have visited many dying people and heard many stories told by family members about them. In this, I have found patterns among Christians dying. For instance, as I have spoken about before, the dying person may or may not know they are in their final week of life, yet he or she is often blessed to have “a last good day.” A happy day shared with loved ones or enjoying a dearly-loved activity is gifted to them by God, from whom all good things come.

Another providential pattern I often see when visiting the dying is how people come to for the Anointing of the Sick. Though wavering in consciousness when I call their names and they open their eyes and they realize a priest has come to share God’s grace. When I came Kathleen’s side in the emergency room to give her the sacrament for those in danger of death, I called her name and she opened her eyes, and knowingly received this consolation from God. Kathleen’s journey from this life features two more elements dying Christians commonly experience. The first was her desire “to go home.”

As we grow old, our bodies are beset with infirmities. This reminds us that all of us must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what [we] did in the body, whether good or evil.” Our physical frailty helps to detach us from this world so that we are open to something greater. Our weakness leads us pray like the psalm: “Put an end to my affliction and my suffering; and take all my sins away. … To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”

Throughout this year, burdened in her mind and body, Kathleen has expressed a desire “to go home.” She said this while still living at home, in the house she grew up in, next-door to St. Paul’s Church. So what “home” did she mean? Kathleen, in faith, was expressing her longing for heaven. St. Paul writes, “We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. [And so] we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

The second detail from Kathleen’s story which I have encountered before in others is visions of visitors. Kathleen’s parents, George and Catherine, and her husband, Leon, each died many years ago. Yet Kathleen reported being in dialogue with them. She said they discussed with her whether or not it was “time for her to go.” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, by saints and angels who desire us to dwell with them in God’s holy city, the new and heavenly Jerusalem. They pray for us and help us. On the morning before Kathleen was taken to the hospital, she had another vision. She extended her palm before her saying, “He’s right here. He’s right here,” though she did not clarify whom.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is the reason we are here. He is why Kathleen did not fear to die. And he is the cause we have for hope in unending life and a greater home. Let us pray for Kathleen’s soul, entrusting her to our loving Lord.

One Response to “Invited Home ― Funeral Homily for Kathleen Zwiefelhofer, 82”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    What a beautiful witness!

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