Easter Makes All Things New — Funeral Homily for Donna Falkenberg, 75

By Fr. Victor Feltes

On the first Good Friday, Christ’s Church lost her bridegroom. What would become of her children, already born and yet to be born? However, Jesus had said, “I will not leave you orphans.” In God’s good providential plan, they would not be left abandoned. Behold how Easter Sunday made all things new. Similarly, in 1966, when Donna was eighteen years old, her husband “Sonny” Braden, Jr. tragically died. She had one infant daughter then and was pregnant with another. What would she do? God’s providence lovingly provided for them. She found and wedded Rodger in 1972, gifting her children a wonderful dad.

Donna’s daughters, Kelly and Lisa, tell me she loved traveling and made friends everywhere she went because she would talk to anybody. She had words of wisdom to share and a way of knowing what people needed to hear. Many of her daughters’ friends consider Donna a second mother. Her Lord, Jesus, also journeyed far from place to place and struck-up conversations with strangers. A woman at a well, a tax collector at his post, or a disabled beggar on the street could each have their lives forever changed and blessed by encountering and befriending him.

Donna sold Home Interiors and Gifts for thirty-two years and ranked sixteenth in the nation for sales. She had a knack for beautifying things and could make a house a home. Before Jesus died and rose he said, “I will prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. … I am going to prepare a place for you, …come back again, and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus intends to beautifully transform us, first our souls and later our bodies, that we may live after this life in a beautiful home with him.

Donna loves an eclectic combination of foods, including ice cream, popcorn, candy corn, and ketchup (though not necessarily mixed together). She would clean out the refrigerator to make what she called “Messy Meals,” adding spaghetti sauce, cream of mushroom soup, or creamy cheese sauce to make leftovers deliciously new. Interestingly, even after being resurrected in a glorified body, Jesus still eats food. St. Luke records how on Easter evening Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room and while they were still amazed and incredulous for joy he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish and he ate it in front of them. Now Jesus did this partly as a proof that he was truly alive and not merely a ghost. But John recounts how later along the shore of the Sea of Galilee the risen Jesus invited seven disciples to a meal. “Come, have breakfast,” he said, and he shared his fish and bread. Though Jesus has no need for food to live, for “death no longer has any power over him,” he still seems to enjoy eating.

Donna’s daughters tell me of her quick wit. “It sometimes shocked you how she snuck it in, but it kept you on your toes.” And Donna could be playful, such as putting a cherry tomato in her cheek and saying, “Tomato, what tomato?” We see that Jesus can be playfully witty, too. After his resurrection, he appeared incognito to a pair of disciples going to Emmaus. He asked, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” One of them, Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And Jesus slyly and dryly replied: “What sort of things?” That is subtly very funny.

As a faithful Catholic, Donna attended Masses here at St. Paul’s Church. As her health declined, if you visited her at home in this past year you would find her enjoying Hallmark movies, since she kept that channel always on. I think one reason she loved both our Catholic Faith and those Hallmark movies is that these stories have happy endings. God has built within us an innate longing for happiness, and he intends to fulfill our longings through Jesus Christ. Jesus became like us so that we may become like him—perfectly holy in our souls and gloriously resurrected in our bodies. Through Jesus Christ, we can live with God forever, free of death and sadness and full of peaceful happiness.

Jesus’ resurrection shows us that goodness will not be lost to death, but raised up again in a beautiful way to endure forever. In these examples from Donna’s life I have shared we see that whatever good things we love, and whatever good there is in us, can find a happy home united with Christ who loves them, too. Behold how Easter makes all things new.

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