Last 27 April 2021 was Liza’s first death anniversary, and a Mass was celebrated to remember her as friends and family joined us. A goddaughter from Canada, Barbara Umali Padolina, happily married and blessed with 12 children, who continues to espouse the Ateneo credo Ad majorem Dei gloriam, shared an article she wrote that was published in Catholic Stand, an e-publication based in Toronto.
An increase of faith at my last Mass to date
By Barbara Umali Padolina
The last time I saw my godmother Eliza was at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary dinner — 10 January 2020.
This pandemic makes it feel like a lifetime ago. It was the last time I was with her, and it will be so until my earthly life ends. Eliza, a kidney transplant recipient, entered hospital in Manila at the beginning of April 2020 — and died of Covid-19 on 27 April 2020, having caught the virus while in hospital for treatment of pneumonia.
I recall that party with a twinge of regret. I sat beside my godmother, yet I was so busy running around and did not spend as much time with her. I now wish I had. Recently, I found myself trying to cram as much as I could into a moment, which I knew would be the last one for several weeks — maybe even longer.
On 19 April, gatherings in churches were to be restricted to a maximum of 10 people in the Canadian province of Ontario due to a worsening third wave of the pandemic. Our family’s last chance for in-person Mass before this took effect was to be on the third Sunday of Easter, 18 April.
I prayed for those close to my heart, including my godmother, Eliza. To this day, I think of her with great affection and thanksgiving for her warmth, joy and larger-than-life persona.
The night before that last Mass, around the dinner table, we talked about how important it is to focus and be present, both physically and mentally. We named the different people we were praying for: healthy, sick, suffering, grieving, living and the dead. With the communion of the saints in mind and much to pray for, I was looking forward to Sunday Mass with great purpose.
In my 50 years of living, there are very few things I know to be certainly true. Death will come to me at some point. God has a great sense of humor.
Each of my 12 children, with no exception, at the age of three had or has the attention span of an easily distracted circus flea. On that third Sunday of Easter, I experienced two of those three certain truths. (Spoiler alert: I lived to tell this tale.)
The readings of that Sunday Mass, together with my restless little daughter, resulted in a very intense time of prayer and worship. In the first reading, I was reminded: “
Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out (Acts 3:19).” The psalms helped me cry out to God: Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
God spoke to me through the second reading: “Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments.
Whoever says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in Him (1 John 2:3-5).”
The Gospel of that third Sunday of Easter spoke directly to my anxiety: “He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.’” (Luke 24:38-39).’” Fear has no place in faith. I do not want to be without the Holy Mass.
Yet, my Father God asks for my complete trust in Him, even when things do not make sense to me. With me was my ever-patient husband, who shared in the joy of minding our three-year-old bundle of energy. Of course, God was also with us.
Celebrated well, offered up with the good, the struggles and the noise, with faith, hope and love, in union with the whole Church — this one Mass could not be one of desperation. Easter reminds us of Jesus’ triumph over evil and death. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)”
At that Mass, I prayed for those close to my heart, including my godmother, Eliza. To this day, I think of her with great affection and thanksgiving for her warmth, joy and larger-than-life persona. My last memory of her is of her face lit up with a huge smile. I pray that God keeps her in the palm of His hand, where her joy will never end.
Until next week… One big fight!
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