No Funeral Cards Yet!

When Science Fiction Becomes Non-Fiction
May 19, 2023
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
Keeping the Sabbath
June 9, 2023
When Science Fiction Becomes Non-Fiction
May 19, 2023
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
Keeping the Sabbath
June 9, 2023

By Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF  

Jim ZielinskiI see my brother Jim every day at work. On my office desk rests his funeral memorial card. Jim was my younger brother lost to us this year from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He is the sibling I never expected would die first: Tall, thin, active– someone who actually used a treadmill regularly, drank (lots of) red wine, ate raw almonds, and avoided red meat and carbs. But within the past 5 years, we watched him disappear in plain sight; he died in home hospice just as Lent began, surrounded by his wife and sons.

Sister Rebecca La PointAt home on my kitchen counter, leaning against the fruit bowl, rests a stack of Sylvania Franciscan funeral cards. It grows every time we lose a Sister: Mary Jon, Ann Joachim, Ann Francis, LaDonna, Marie Andree and others. Currently, Rebecca La Point’s card rests on top. These are my Sisters, talented and dedicated women who served others generously and shaped the culture of this congregation.

We’ve all heard it over and over: Aging is an act of letting go, saying goodbye, learning to deal with diminishment. We’re now adjusting daily to the changes we only imagined years ago.

Our bodies don’t function smoothly the way they used to (that vacation or tour or even daylong festival—does it involve a lot of walking?? Will there be restrooms?); our energy level doesn’t keep up with our interest (I’d like to go, but I want to be home and in bed by 9pm!); our circle of friends and relatives continues to shrink (Matt and Marian can’t make it… he just had surgery and she can no longer drive at night.) I suspect we all have days when we don’t want to get up, get dressed, or leave the house!

“Getting old(er)” as my mother Loretta used to say, “Is not for the faint of heart.”

We believe though, that we are moving through the universal Paschal Mystery of Life-Death-Resurrection with all of creation. Most of us are growing more aware of the grace we need to let go of people, places, and practices.

However, we’re called to rejoice and live fully NOW— with whatever energy we can muster. The curtain hasn’t fallen yet. There are needs around us we can still meet, hearts we can console, stories we can tell or hear from each other. Death has not yet seized us. We have living to do.

In Isaiah 54:2-3, as the nation returns from long exile and distress, God tells the people that blessings and abundance await them NOW. Surprisingly, it is not time to retract, but to expand:

“Enlarge the place of your tent,

stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;

lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread out to the right and to the left…”

This is hardly a eulogy—it’s more of a Call to Action, to Life. So yes, do some thoughtful and considerate planning for your demise. Clean out your sock drawer, throw out those old photo albums and yearbooks, pack a box for Goodwill– but keep living generously, graciously, joyfully.

Let’s honor our losses (Jim, I miss you!) but live in the NOW as completely as possible. Our funeral cards are not printed yet!

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski

Sr. Ann Marie Emon

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski has found a ministry telling stories, in which she communicates how others contribute to the greater good. She serves as the Director of Faith & Values Programming at NewGroup Media, in South Bend, Indiana, a position she has held since 2002.

She is a writer and producer of multiple broadcast and non-broadcast programs, that have taken place nationally as well as internationally.

In 2018, Sr. Judy celebrates her 50th Jubilee as a Sylvania Franciscan.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Ah, Judy! A great reminder of how we are called to walk the path forward! I always thought Jesus’ main message was a call to peace. Now I believe that it’s a call to live fully, in the abundance of God’s love and sharing it with others.

Sister Ruth Margaret Peterson
1 year ago

Oh, Judy, well said. Thank you!

Shannon Schrein
1 year ago

I really enjoyed this Blog, Judy. It is the story of our lives. Thanks for sharing your reflections.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x