A New, Joyful Day — Funeral Homily for Robert “Bob” Sobotta, 77

By Fr. Victor Feltes

It was the day after Bob’s nineteenth birthday and the day before he would marry Joann. Bob and Joann had met at a Pines Ballroom dance and now they were at The Pines Ballroom again, together with family preparing food for the next day’s festivities. They listened to the radio as they labored, and that’s how they learned what had happened at 12:30 PM that day in Texas. A short time later that same afternoon, the first report of grim news was followed by another: President John F. Kennedy was dead. It was Friday, November 22nd, 1963.

Presidential assassinations had happened before, first and most famously with President Lincoln. But it had been sixty-two years since the last murder of a president, when President McKinley was shot and died in Buffalo, NY in 1901, and few were still alive who remembered living through it. So Joann recalls how shocked everyone was that a president, America’s first Catholic president, was killed. They were all discussing it, stunned. They just couldn’t believe it, it seemed so unbelievable — and yet it was real, as real as death.

I asked Joann whether that mournful news, whether this national tragedy, soured their “Big Day”? No, she said, it was “just as joyful.” Bob and Joann awoke the next day and were married in the morning (as was the custom then) in a 9:30 AM Saturday wedding Mass at St. Peter’s in Tilden in the company of many loved ones, their family and friends. This was followed by a dinner at the Sundial Club and then a reception back at The Pines, a feast and a dance for them all. Bob loved to dance, polkas and waltzes in particular, and he enjoyed dancing with his new bride. Bob and Joann would happily share their next fifty-eight years together loving God, each other, and their family, friends, and neighbors, until Bob’s recent passing.

Death is sad and unsettling. Though common to history, it still remains shocking for us. But suffering and death are not the end of our stories. Though we mourn now, we will be comforted. We expect a new dawn, a new day, when the blessed friends of Christ – our King who dies no more – will awaken to celebrate his wedding feast with him. Jesus our Good Shepherd will spread the table before us, and the just shall dance with delight, and every tongue shall give praise to God. Though today we walk in the dark valley, the day we prepare for, the day we look forward to, the day that awaits us, will be full of joy.

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