The funeral for my husband's grandmother is Friday. Well, it isn't really a funeral, but a graveside service.
I've been Catholic all my life. I hold the Catholic beliefs on death and dying, the communion of saints and Purgatory. Although I've been part of hubby's Protestant family for over 20 years, there are still some times I am a fish out of water and where my Catholic perspective is so different that I fumble for words and am visibly uncomfortable. This funeral is a case and point.
My family, on both my mother's side and my father's, are Catholic. Or at least they were when I was a child. Someone was always dying. Someone was always getting married and someone was always having a baby. These were life events that happened with frequency and regularity. It is all one big continuum from the Church Triumphant down to the Church Militant.
But, my husband's family isn't Catholic. The family is very small and this is only the third funeral of theirs I've been to. Yesterday, with the passing of my husband's grandmother, I was at a loss to comfort anyone because their beliefs are so different. In talking with my husband's aunt, she was mentioning how Grandma was now in Heaven having coffee with the brother she didn't know she had and her son who died when he was an infant. While all these ideas were very consoling to her, I didn't know what to say. I couldn't say that I was praying for Grandma because in their minds she is already in Heaven. I certainly couldn't expound on the coffee thoughts and make light of the situation, but it also wasn't a time to bring up Purgatory. I did the best I could and talked about my memories of Grandma, but the awareness that I had to watch what I said made me sad. Despite what they think, there is a big difference in our faiths.
Since my husband is a convert, I've asked him many times about the Protestant belief that everyone who believes in God or claims Jesus is their Savior or is born again, goes to Heaven. It is a waste of time to mention to hubby's family that this is an unbiblical belief since they don't read the bible and they don't go to church. Everything to them is personal belief, emotional belief. Since they have no foundation, it is impossible to discuss religion. Martin Luther's reformation has been distilled down to everyone having their own beliefs. God isn't an unchanging absolute, but whatever they envision Him to be, even if family members maintain conflicting and diametrically opposed ideas. You're OK, I'm OK.
While I'm a big believer in God's mercy, we will always receive God's justice. I don't believe you can live your life without giving God a second thought, disregard His commandments and then think you're going to high-tail it into Heaven without Him batting an eye. What happened to Paul telling us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling?
To me, the comforting thought isn't that Grandma is sitting around drinking coffee, but that God gave her a long life, possibly to provide her time to turn her heart back to Him. It is my hope in His mercy that somewhere in the clouds of Alzheimer's she had a conversion and is now in Purgatory full of hope in the knowledge that she will one day see God face to face. And, if He likes coffee, that would be a bonus.