Several years back, a co-worker used the term “shirt-tail relative”. I like it. It seems to explain many of the relationships I’ve had, and especially with my husband’s family. See, he was in utero when his mom divorced his biological dad. His mom remarried when he was an infant and had 2 sons with that man before divorcing him. By that time, Casey was about 6 and she married the guy that he calls his dad. They stayed together for 11 years, then divorced, and his dad died 6 months later in a car wreck. His mom married again when Casey was 20 or so, and stayed married until her death in 2000.
That last husband is the only one I knew, the one I called my father-in-law and who my children called Grandpa Johnny. He passed away in the early morning of Thanksgiving and today we attended his Funeral Mass.
When I married Casey, I didn’t know what I was getting into with his mom. She did not like me, thought I was stuck-up, and never really treated my kids like she did her other grandkids. Johnny, however, was just a great guy. A staunch Catholic, he was born and died within 200 yards of the church, where he sang in the choir, was on various boards, and never missed a mass. He had married young and had 3 children with his first wife; she died when the youngest was 16. Like many of our midwestern parishes, the tavern was right across the street; he spent a little time there, too, and that’s where he met Casey’s mom. She converted to Catholicism, and Johnny spent a lot of money to get all those marriages annulled…. He loved people, especially pretty women; loved to dance, and was always ready to socialize. By the time my mother-in-law died, the marriage was pretty lousy, but he was faithful, even though she dealt him the supreme blow of refusing to have Last Rites or a Catholic funeral. No surprise, he fell in love a couple of months after her death, pissing off my husband and his brothers and alarming his own children with his lavish spending on the new woman. After bleeding several thousand dollars from him, she disappeared…
He was never quite the same after that. He developed hydrocephalus, then Parkinsons Disease and became more and more dependent. His oldest son died in 2008, his younger son in 2012. He never recovered…
I have some regrets…I Should Have spent more time with him; I Should have….
But today’s Mass assured me that John, through his baptism, had died already, reborn into eternal life that started here and is even now continuing, though out of our sight. Thanks to the atoning blood of Christ, we die with Him, so that we can rise up also with Him. John’s faithful worship, experiencing the Presence of Christ through the Eucharist, equipped him to joyfully shuffle off this mortal coil. That is my faith. That is what I believe.
A couple of weeks ago, our pastor pointed out that we are already citizens of heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus proclaimed. Death is a just a necessary step on our journey.
I realize that I’m not going to like everyone who will be in Heaven with me; it will include people who did not live a godly life, but realized the Truth on their deathbed; it will be full of people with poor social skills, and even some of those obnoxious Christians that keep trying to convert me… But I’ll be looking for John D. Kissel, assured that I’ll see him…and we’ll have a dance.