About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Death to Life

Last Saturday, Phoebe, Charles and I attended the funeral of Phoebe's friend Daniel.  Phoebe and I were asked to sing for the service, and, difficult as we knew it would be, we agreed.  Over the years I have sung at many funerals, some of them for children.  This one would be Phoebe's first time singing at a funeral.   Daniel was a friend of Phoebe's since high school.  We sang only two songs, "Morning Has Broken" at the beginning of the service, and "Michael, Row The Boat Ashore" while Daniel's parents and brother and sister scattered some of his ashes into the bay.

At the reception afterwards, Karen, Daniel's mom told me that "Morning Has Broken" was a special song for her and Daniel.  She said that when he was young, she would play "Morning Has Broken" on the CD player in the car on the way to school.  He would argue that he wanted to play his own music, so they compromised.  One morning she would play her music, and the next he would play his.  She always chose "Morning Has Broken".  When he left for college, she couldn't find the Cat Stevens CD.  She asked Daniel about it and he said that he took it to Fairbanks with him so he could listen to it in the mornings.  I'm glad she told me this story AFTER Phoebe and I sang the song, because I never would have been able to get through it.

The service, which was presided over by the minister at Douglas Methodist Church, was beautiful, with many stories and tributes from Daniel's family and friends.  What a tragedy.  28 years old, with such an amazing life of adventure behind him, and such promise ahead of him as a scientist, with two important papers already published in his field of study.  To die so young and so suddenly was a blow to his friends and family.  I ask for your prayers for all of them.

And now to the new life:

Today was the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.  To celebrate the feast of this saint, who is the patroness of our Diocese, Fr. Steve Gallagher, associate pastor at St. Paul the Apostle parish celebrated Mass at the Shrine.  When Charles and I arrived, there was only Fr. Steve, his friend John, who is visiting Juneau, and Jeannie the Shrine caretaker in attendance.  Charles was serving at the Mass, so there would be an assembly of  three.  Fr. Steve was just getting ready to start Mass, when we heard a ruckus from outside.  The door opened and three moms arrived with a whole bunch of kids for Mass.

We all settled in as Mass started and the activity and noise level from the two pews holding the families grew and grew and grew.  As Charles read the Gospel, one of the kids discovered that the pews were moveable.  Scrape....scrape... as the pew moved back and forth on the concrete floor. Thump, thump, thump as boots kicked the wooden kneelers.  The older kids were doing a pretty good job of sitting quietly, but the younger ones, aged about 18 months to 4 years, were bundles of energy.  The moms were doing their best, but they were outnumbered.  The Gospel was very apt:

 Matthew 18:1-4
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Charles preached on St. Therese and her "Little Way", and the whole time, we heard "Scrape, thump" in the background.  

And was this a problem for us?  Nope.  Because the kids were not misbehaving.  They were being kids.  Now if they had been 7 or 8 year olds, that would have been a different story!  But they were moving around, asking questions, being curious, being noisy, being kids.  There is no "cry room" at the Shrine.  It is a stone church with a concrete floor and great acoustics.  The walls echoed with joyful noise today.  And it was good.

Here they come!

During Mass

With thanks to Angela Smith for the photos, and to the Smith, Forbes and Grimes families for allowing me to tell this story!


  1. Two sweet stories.

    I love the story about Morning Has Broken and I especially loved your line about the kids not misbehaving, they were just being kids.

  2. Paula
    My heart breaks for Daniel's family. I can't imagine their pain. I will pray.

    It is so wonderful that you have the young children in church. Today it's becoming a rare sight!

  3. Paula...so sweet, what a kindred spirit you are xxoo


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