Janet Cremin Homily
A kind, deeply spiritual, loving woman.
January 6, 2012 - Mexico
|Janet Cremin, Frank Krafft and Joan Provencio at the Fr. Wasson Family Gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, August 2011.|
Janet Cremin was so full of life, which makes what we are doing today seem all the stranger. She loved to laugh—and I have a couple of great “Janet stories.” But since she wouldn’t have the chance to rebut them, or at least challenge some of the details as I would tell them, I suspect that she might prefer that I was serious today. So…
Some time ago I came across an essay written by a religious woman—a woman not professed in any religious congregation, but religious in the sense of her deep faith and her vocation as wife and mother. I would like to share with you the simple message conveyed in her words:
The first cold spell is always the hardest. Shivering as I dressed, I thought how nice it would be if I could pack up the family and go south about the first of November every year. And since there is no harm in wishing, I thought it would be nice to stay until the spring.
But then I decided that I wouldn't mind staying in Kansas until after Thanksgiving. I like to see that creeping up of winter, the fall of the last leaves, the bleak landscape huddling patiently close to the earth. There is something about the still, cold twilight of a November day that I would miss in Florida—the hurrying figures with heads shrunk into collars, a silence in the air, a sadness, but not a hopelessness, rather an acceptance as quiet as a thin blue spiral of smoke.
And having stayed past Thanksgiving, with Christmas decorations going up, I would probably decide not to leave until the first of the year. It's fun to walk in the crowds of shoppers and see the bright windows through a soft snow. Christmas might not be the same in a bathing suit. We'd just stay past New Year's and then take a little trip. I know what would happen then. Spring would be near, if not in fact, at least in the flood of seed catalogues. January will soon pass. February is a short month. And then March will be here with robins and pussy willows and swelling buds.
But suppose I should go away and come back for the spring. Returning from the profusion of palms and magnolias, would I be thrilled with a slender, pale-green leaf on a black stem? Spring is release, freedom from the bondage of winter, joy over returning warmth and life.
But suppose that there was no winter. How could anyone love the spring who had not known winter? What thrill would there be in running streams if you had not seen them icebound?
For you see, there can be no day without night, no joy without sorrow, no spring without winter, nor life without death.
There is much wisdom in that woman's words. Pain is a part of being alive, and we need to learn that. Pain does not last forever, nor is it necessarily unbearable, and we need to be taught that. Broken hearts, like broken bones, hurt dreadfully but ultimately they heal, and there is life beyond the hurting. We can endure much more than we think we can. All human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is learn not to be afraid of the pain. Grit your teeth and let it hurt. Don't deny it, don't be overwhelmed by it. It will not last forever. One day the pain will be gone and we will still be here. Because God will still be here.
My friend, Janet Cremin, was a marvelous woman who gave most of her life in service to others. The gospel her family chose for today is the one from which our founder took the name of the orphanage where Janet served for so many years—Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, or Our Little Brothers and Sisters. Fitting enough, since one of the people most profoundly affected by Janet’s passing is a little 15-year-old girl at the orphanage, also named Janet, who was SO proud of her namesake, that she made us pray for your Janet at EVERY Prayer of the Faithful, at EVERY mass I have ever offered there. Professionally, Janet shared her talents and self with people at the Drake Hotel in the human resources department. But then she went and spent her “retirement” in service to God and some of his most special children at the orphanage in Mexico—for which so many children, staff and I will be eternally grateful. She was completely dedicated to her family, and especially to her cousin and soul-mate Joan. It seems somehow quite unfair that, after so many years of service to others, she couldn’t have had more time to just kick back and relax and enjoy a real retirement, her new home and her loving family. It’s a shame that, when God was ready for her, she had to suffer a fall due to one of our confounded Illinois winters instead of quietly passing into his arms from her own bed. But her pain was not unbearable nor without end, and she now lives a life beyond the hurting.
This wonderful family here has suffered in a short time the loss of Kathy (Janet’s beloved sister) and now Janet. The pain is real, and deep…but our faith is stronger. Grit your teeth and let it hurt. It will not last forever. Because God is here and shares our pain—and because we know that Janet is with God, and now shares fully his life and love.
After having buried so many loved ones in my years as a priest, it's hard for me to cry at funerals. There is always pain—the pain of separation and of one deeply loved gone before having the time to enjoy the final years that we think they rightly deserved. But there is also hope. I refuse to believe in or accept the finality of death, and I hope you share that belief…because Janet, like so many others of importance in our lives, shared with us that faith—by living it, day in and day out. That denial of the power of death and that faith in eternal life is summarized best in the words of Jesus in the gospel, when he proclaims: "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even if they should die. And every living person who puts their faith in me shall never suffer eternal death." The Lord Jesus concluded that pronouncement by asking his dear Martha simply, directly: "Do you believe this?" There is no doubt in any of our minds that Janet believed those words and that promise. There should be no doubt in our minds that today her hopes and dreams are fulfilled.
In the words of the other religious woman whom I quoted earlier: "But suppose that there was no winter. How could anyone love the spring who had not known winter? What thrill would there be in running streams if you had not seen them icebound? For you see, there can be no day without night, no joy without sorrow, no spring without winter, nor life without death."
Janet now enjoys her first week of eternal life... she lives now a life where there is no death. She rests this day in the arms of her parents, her sister Kathy, and the same Lord Jesus Christ who promised eternal life to her and to all of us who believe.
Father Phil Cleary
President, NPH International