As someone who works in what is commonly referred to as the death care industry, sadness tends to permeate my daily routine. I am often told by those that work outside the industry that I can’t make it personal and all I can ask is how can I not?
Consider what we are told not to make personal: A father and mother lose their 4 year old son in a tragic accident at home. A father shares his anger for not recognizing his son’s pain prior to his death from a suicide. A mother tearfully recounts her daughter’s painful death. A wife brings her one true love to the cemetery. A mom says goodbye to her son, reminds him to be careful, never to see him again. A husband who cared for his dying wife brings her to the cemetery where he and his children will now have to visit her.
As Catholic cemeterians, we witness their suffering and we share in their tears. At the moment a family calls upon us to serve, we accept without hesitation the responsibility of caring for their loved one in this sacred place. We acknowledge a duty to each family and treat their loved one just as Joseph of Arimathea did when he took responsibility for the burial of Jesus. As Catholic cemeterians, we have a bond with our families because we feel each interment. In that moment when a family arrives at the gates of their Catholic cemetery, they are confronted with the numbing pain of finality. It is in that moment a Catholic cemeterian becomes a guardian not only of the loved one entrusted to our care but also of the spiritual wellbeing of the survivors.
We acknowledge each person’s grief and we accept that their grief can be overwhelming as they leave their loved one behind in our care. We are now ministers caring for the dead and providing comfort to the living who now turn to their Catholic faith for comfort. It is in our Catholic cemeteries where our faith in the resurrection is alive, where our hope in what will be is validated and where the peacefulness of our surroundings allows us to remember.
It is personal because we understand that what we do is both a corporal and spiritual work of mercy. Our Catholic faith reminds us that those who mourn are blessed and it is our duty to provide comfort to them.
~ Andrej Lah, Director of Catholic Cemeteries