The Gift of Eternal Life ― Funeral Homily for Leonard & Jean Halfman

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Imagine if, one night in a dream, an archangel visited you. His incredible glory fills your vision and you are convinced he comes from heaven. He bears a message for you. “Behold,” he announces, “the Lord God has decreed that you shall never die.” Then the angel departs from you and you awake in the morning wondering what this means.

A few years pass and you notice nothing unusual. You wonder if you might have imagined it. But a few more years pass and you realize that you’re not aging. A decade passes, and then another, but your age remains the same. If anything, you seem a little bit younger, while you see your friends and relatives grow older. You delight to be healthy and able to join them for their good times and you are grateful you can be there for them in their hard times. Eventually, you attend all of their funerals. You mourn their passing, but your life still contains joy.

Through the years, you make new friends. Perhaps you marry, or remarry, and have many children. You collect new hobbies, go back to school to earn degrees, and start careers in various fields. Eventually, you explore other regions of the world, learn new languages, and experience the best of other cultures. Your unending lifetimes would fill centuries, and your centuries might span millennia, but the longing within you would remain unfulfilled.

Your eyes may be filled by beautiful sights, your mouth may be filled with delicious tastes, and your ears may be filled with lovely sounds, but you would become envious of those who die because this world’s good things cannot fully satisfy. God places within us a natural wariness of death, and this is healthy and good. (If human beings failed to take proper care of themselves—if we were naturally apathetic towards survival—how could God’s purposes be accomplished in our lives?) But after having lived for multiple lifetimes, the blessing of earthly immortality would feel like being left out, left behind, like a curse. You would envy those who get to experience what’s next, while you continue to wait, with great impatience, for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

This funeral is unique in all my years of priesthood. Never before have I celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial for more than one person at once. And thankfully, today’s double funeral does not follow a horrific tragedy, such as a family’s fatal car crash or a double murder. Leonard and Jean lived longer lives than most people: eighty years and seventy-seven years respectively. And they lived fuller lives than most people, with strong Catholic Faith which they imparted to their children through fifty-six years of marriage.

Though a quiet, introverted pessimist was paired with a talkative, extroverted optimist, together they reflected Christian excellence to the world – feeding others through an extraordinary dairy herd, and supporting and caring for the sick and dying. Both endured physical sufferings, realizing along the way that the brain is a bodily organ which can require a physician’s help as much as any other. And finally, after sharing a lifetime together, their earthly lives came to natural ends less than ten weeks apart from each other. Despite living only one lifespan each, Leonard and Jean did not see their coming deaths as tragedies. I am told by their children, “In their own way, each experienced joy when they realized that they were nearing the end of this life and entering eternal life, and they were ready to go.”

Jesus says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink… ill and you cared for me…” The Book of Wisdom says, “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble…” So while there is naturally some sadness today, we do not mourn a tragedy but rejoice in a triumph. As St. Paul said: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? … Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

One Response to “The Gift of Eternal Life ― Funeral Homily for Leonard & Jean Halfman”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    Wow–what a story!

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