Sandy's Memorial

Mass for the Dead, on November 7, 1998

"...Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed [of the dead] might be fully blotted out....He took up a collection....which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.....Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin." (2 Maccabees, 12:42-46)

On Saturday, November 7, 1998, a Mass for the Dead was said at St. Basil's Chapel on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, Houston. Sandra Merriman was inscribed in this Mass. Immediately after Mass, Father Ted Baenziger, CSB, and Jane Danko drove to Galveston Island, walked out on an isolated jetty, and conducted Last Rites for Sandy. During the same moments, Rabbi Moshe Cahana was reading Kaddish for Sandy at Congregation Brith Shalom in Houston. Father Ted said the Ritual Prayers for the Dead, and Jane, under instruction from Rabbi Cahana, read Psalms 23 and 145. Jane then cast into the waters the flowers, poems, and momentos that had been sent by members of the Leonard Cohen newsgroup. The rites concluded with additional prayers and the "Hail,Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy...."

The following is exerpted from the homily:

"Have you ever watched the sun set and remained until it got dark? When the sun sets, it fills the world with golden light. In the meantime, the moon is high in the sky. But its light is so weak and pale that you have to look very carefully to see it. It doesn't appear to be contributing anything whatsoever to the Earth.

As the sun goes down it appears to take the whole world with it. As it goes down, however, a curious and beautiful thing begins to happen. The lower the sun dips in the sky, the brighter the moon becomes. So that by the time the sun has finally departed the scene, the moon has undergone a complete transformation. It is now, by far, the brightest object in the sky. And as you look around, you notice to your surprise and delight that the old world has not only been completely restored to you, but has been made new, bright, and exciting.

When our family and friends, who have meant a lot to us, die, it is as if the sun has gone down on our life. Everything seems to vanish with their passing. We are plunged into gloom, and experience a terrible feeling of emptiness. We miss our loved one as much as we miss the light. The void seems to get even greater as time gradually brings home to us just how much we have lost.

But our faith assures us that all is not lost. We are not in total darkness. A new light shines on us, or rather the old light under a new form. Just as the sun, though it has departed the earthly scene, is still able to reflect its light on the Earth, so our loved ones, though out of sight, have not vanished into nothingness. They still live. Now enjoying the light of eternity, they are able to reflect some of this light on us. They are still shining on us, still influencing us. Death is not absence. It is a new kind of presence.

All loved ones who die leave us a parting gift - the gift of their spirit. This spirit comforts us and maintains the link between them and us. But the spirit also summons us to life. We are challenged to grow, to shine in our own right. And what happens? We discover resources within us we never suspected existed. Thus, though we lose something, we gain something, too; though we are impoverished, we are enriched too. The world is restored to us, bathed in a new and gentler light.

Those who have a task to do (looking after a family or whatever) recover more quickly. But recovery can happen for everyone. All we have to do is believe. Christ too sends us His very own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the consoler and upholder of all those who grieve. So we gather together on this.....Mass of Memoriam.....We gather, because we believe that the light that once was their lives has been transformed....

We are told that the Magi were led to Christ by the light of a bright star. But they only saw the star because they were not afraid to travel in the dark. The fact is, we cannot see the stars in the bright light of day, but only in the darkness of night; and the darker the night, the brighter they shine. Those who have to travel by night need no longer fear the darkness, because since the coming of Christ a light has come into the world, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness cannot overpower.

Father Ted

From Dies Irae:

Dies Irae, Dies Illa,
[That day of wrath, that Dreadful Day]
Solvet saeclum in savilla:
[When Heaven and Earth shall pass away,]
Teste David cum Sibylla.
[Both David and the Sibyl say.]

Rex tremendae majestatis,
[O King of dreadful majesty]
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
[Who grants us grace and mercy free]
Salva me, fons pietatis.
[Grant mercy now and grace to me.]

Recordare, Jesu pie,
[Good Lord, who for my sinful sake]
Quod sum causa tuae viae,
[Man suffering flesh yourself did take,]
Ne me perdas illa die.
[Please do not now my soul forsake.]

Preces meae non sunt dignae;
[My feeble prayers can make no claim]
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
[Yet, gracious Lord, for your great name,]
Ne perenni cremer igne.
[Redeem me from the quenchless flame.]

Oro supplex et acclinis,
[In suppliant prayer I humbly bend,]
Cor contritum quasi cinis;
[My contrite heart like ashes rend;]
Gere curam mei finis.
[Regard, O Lord, my final end.]

Lacrymosa dies illa,
[Oh on that day, that tearful day]
Qua resurget ex favilla,
[When man to judgment wakes from clay,]
Judicandus homo reus.
[Do you the sinner's sentence stay.]
Huic ergo parce, Deus.
[O spare her,God, we humbly pray.]

Pie Jesu Domine,
[And grant to all, O Saviour blest,]
Dona eis requiem. Amen.
[Who die in you, the Saints' sweet rest. Amen.]

Jane Danko

From Psalm 145:

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
The Lord is good to all,
compassionate to every creature.
The Lord is trustworthy in every word,
and faithful in every work.
The Lord supports all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you;
you give them their food in due season.
You, Lord, are near to all who call upon you,
to all who call upon you in truth.
You satisfy the desire of those who fear you;
you hear their cry and save them.
My mouth will speak your praises, Lord;
all flesh will bless your holy name forever.

From Kaddish:

Our days are like grass;
like flowers in a field we flourish.
The wind passes by and we are no more,
But Your Love endures forever.

Scattering of Sandy's ashes
December 23, 1998

And Jesus was a sailor, when He walked upon the water
And He spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower

On December 23, 1998, Jane Danko and her brother, Thomas Solomon, carried Sandy's ashes to the end of the same jetty on Galveston Bay where Jane and Father Ted Baenziger, CSB, had performed Last Rites for Sandy.

On the jetty, Jane read from the book of Wisdom:

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they shall be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of the visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

Then from the book of Isaiah:

"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us."

Then Tom read from The Spice-Box of Earth:

"Sing to fish, embrace the beast,
But don't get up from the pond
With half your body a horse's body
Or wings from your backbone.
Sleep as a woman beside the sleeping wolves
Without longing for a special sky
To darken and fur your hands.
Animals, do not kill for the human heart
Which under breasts of scale or flesh will cry.
O swallow, be a heart in the wind's high breast,
River the limbs of the sky with your singing blood.
The dead are beginning to breathe:
I see my friend splashing light like a jewel
In the swamp's black mud.
Then Psalm 23:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."

Then Jane cast Sandy's ashes on the waters of Galveston Bay. At first they fell heavily. Then the wind picked them up and carried them out over the water. After that Jane and Tom read the Sermon on the Mount, also called the Beatitudes, and Leonard Cohen's lyrics "Dance Me to the End of Love". The ceremony was completed with the song:

"You say I took the Name in vain;
I don't even know the name.
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word;
it doesn't matter which you heard,
the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!

I did my best; it wasn't much.
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch.
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

"Sandy, rest in peace. Beautiful Losers, it is done. It is complete. May you rest also."

List of places where prayers were said for Sandy.

Seraphic Mass Association, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Iglesia Apostol San Andres, Teixido, Spain
Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tohono O'dohom Indian Reservation, Tucson, Arizona USA
West Los Angeles Mormon Temple, Los Angeles, California, USA
Prayer Circle of St. Rita, Augustinian Fathers International
Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Balthasar-Neumannstrasse, Wemeck, Germany
Congregation Brith Shalom, Houston, Texas, USA
Chapel of St. Basil, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, USA


* for the Catholic Prayers for the Dead: The Communion of Saints

* for the Kaddish: Kaddish

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