Wednesday January 11, 2012

The events of the last few days can only be explained as an out-of-body experience.  The last week really since Shannon left our world.   Heck, how about the last 9 months?  A blink of an eye.  From diagnosis to death.  Went way too fast.

Participation in the ritual of ceremony - as anyone that has survived a wedding ceremony can attest - brings with it intense scrutiny.  The eyes of your world are on you and you either embrace it or it makes you sick to your stomach.  Fortunately, Jen and I were able to embrace it.

When we met with Fr. Mahon at the end of November he gave us some insight into how a funeral can go down.  We knew it was in our future.  Without telling each other Jen and I each had visualized the ceremony in our head dozens of times since April.  Fr. Mahon said that you will draw strength from the mourners around you.  He said you might even enjoy it - if that's possible.  He was right. Tim Macken from the funeral home told us the same thing.  You just find strength to carry you through.

As we entered St. John's the Evangelist church for the funeral ceremony of Shannon Anne O'Hara at 4:30pm on January 10 of 2012 the eyes of our world were on us.  We could feel them.  But we could feel the love too.  Jen and I both felt pretty darn good.  Really strong.  Erin maybe didn't embrace the attention quite as comfortably as we did.  But she did well.  She is a beauty.  A child of God.

But - damn - there were alot of eyes.  I have never seen our church so full.  Shannon would have been so embarrassed.  She never liked much attention.  Especially as she embodied a fight that turned her into a disciple of God.  Shannon and Erin never asked us to "blog about it". 

But the blog allowed us to share our journey with family and close friends without needing to be on the phone every night talking to people.  The blog allowed us to summarize the events of the day at a time when the girls were asleep or busy at school.  It allowed us to turn insomnia into a productive session on our counselors couch.  But Shannon and Erin never signed up for the blog.  Never knew what it would become.  Neither did we.  No idea that it would turn into 30,000 a day.  You kiddin' me?

So that's probably why there were so many sets of eyes on us.  As we joked with family, you don't get to pair down an invitation list to a funeral.  If they were touched by the life they are free to come celebrate the end of it.

Back to the out-of-body experience.  Marching in with family.  Looking over at the choir.  Making eye contact with so many friends...important people in our lives... looking you right in the eye.  Then you get used to it and just begin to absorb the ritual. My brother Mike's eulogy captured Shannon's spirit so perfectly. I'm proud to be Mike's brother.

Our St. John's community has played such a tremendous role in our journey.  I will never forget the Sunday two days after diagnosis when Erin and Shannon sobbed in each others arms (and all our friends in our section did the same), or Easter Sunday when we were asked to bring up the gifts or Sunday November 27 when our parish community raised hands over our family as Shannon was given the Catholic Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Last Rites... I think I like Anointing of the Sick better).

St. John's is home.  We don't always agree with the politics of Catholicism.  But weighed against the sense of community we feel at our home parish it's not even close.  To Jen and I, those people are our family.  We watch over each other.  We watch our kids grow up together.

So to say they rose to the occasion is an understatement of epic proportions.  St. John's rocks.  Our friend - the Rev. Msgr. Jerry Mahon made Shannon's service so personal involving hundreds of kids in the ceremony.  Holy buckets there were alot of kids.  At least a couple hundred.  Maybe three hundred invited up on the alter.  Hockey players, golfers, basketball players, friends, just normal tweens and teens, boys and girls of all sizes and shapes that have been touched by Shannon's journey.  Fr. Mahon brought them up and talked to them about how God could take Shannon this way.  Unthinkable really that a kind God could do it.  But it happened.  And now it is up to each of them to figure out a meaning. 

The music made me cry.  Music Director Sebastian Modarelli and the choir and our friend and cantor Nora O'Sullivan and the piano and organ and the instruments...  They brought their "A" game.  Nailed it.

I still need some time to process the events of these last few days.  But just like after a great wedding party, family comes together and feels together.  They share.  They want to keep going over events and talking.  Nobody wants to board jets and head back to lives.  But today is that day.  So lots of goodbyes coming this morning.   Power up for one more session.  I don't think Erin is going to make it to school again today. 

But there's time to catch up.  For the first time ever, last night I referred to my kids as "our girl".  Singular.