My eulogy for Yvonne Masse who passed away 4/5/2012, Holy Thursday three years ago. Please share with me the life of one of God’s precious daughters.
It has often been said that funerals are for the living. That being said, Funerals clearly are a time of reflection: on the loved one, on life and on death, and they are a time of introspection for many of us. Many times in the past as I sat in a memorial service, I wondered what people might say about me when my day comes. Will the room be packed or will it only be those who feel obligated to be there? I have been to both types of funerals. What will the banner of my life announce to those I have left behind? Will that one person show up who I had a brief encounter with and pass along some profound moment in time when I was the help they needed, or that I simply walked by them, indifferent.
Was I God with skin on or was I a prude who only thought of himself and did not care for his fellow man? Will I finally hear God speak those words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Before I share my thoughts on my grandmother I would like to relate a short story, bear with me and I promise you will understand. I want to speak first of Pepere, because not only did Memere have an extreme impact on my life but so did he and it was a tandem event.
A short time prior to his death, I was told my grandmother asked my grandfather what he would like to do with his watch. He said please make sure Roland gets it. To an 11 year old boy that was a nice gift but at that age I did not appreciate the value of this watch I possess today.
When I picked up this watch this morning it started ticking after thirty-six years without any human intervention.
In my mind’s eye I can still see Pepere praying by his bed, on his knees, a humble man in front of his Maker. It did not matter who was running around that small apartment, when it was time for bed, down on his knees he went. I remember how as a child the only thing I wanted to do was sit between Memere and Pepere in the front seat of his Impala whenever we visited. It was the best place in the world to me as a kid.
As I grew older and time passed, it is not a secret that I took a temporary path that lead to a variety of, shall we say – shenanigans. Memere was always there for me with open arms until I left Lewiston, but as I did the things I did and through the years leading up to my revelation, I would pause and feel in my heart that Pepere was watching me and for a brief moment felt the guilt and shame of my actions. But I was not able to stop the downward spiral, even though deep down I wish I could have made him proud. It’s a curious thing, to be caught up like that, knowing you need help but not sure how to ask for or to get it.
Fast forward eighteen years from his death. I was getting ready to be baptized as an adult and I was close to three years of sobriety. I had called Aunt Lillian to share with her my joy in finding Christ again in my life and my upcoming AA birthday. I had a recent interest in finding the watch my grandfather had left me and that my mother was going to send it to me. I will never forget that call because that day God revealed his awesome wonder to me.
When I mentioned my sobriety date was the 18th of October, there was silence on the other end of the line.
I said, “Hello, Aunt Lil, are you there?”
“Roland, what did you say?” “I am going to be 3 yrs sober.”
“No, no, the date.” “Oct 18th.”
“Roland, did you know that was the day your grandfather died?”
All of a sudden, every memory of him, thinking about how I felt when I thought he was watching over me all came to a point. In an instant I was reliving the shame I had felt to know that he had witnessed my lowest and most shameful moments, moments I would never think of sharing in public. But he had seen it all and I knew from the bottom of my heart, he had been watching over me the whole time and even in my sin he loved me. Just like Christ loves each one of us, all of the time.
On Oct 18th 1990, I thought my life was ruined forever, but on the anniversary of his death I was given a gracious death blow to my old life of addiction. I had no way of knowing that his prayer was being fulfilled and my life was being given back to me. How grateful I am that one of his last acts on Earth was to profess his watch over me and even in his death his spirit continued to capture my attention for the life God truly had in store for me.It came not with a gentle promise but a loving spiritual 2×4 up alongside my head.
With the watch ticking this morning, I know he is here but now with Memere.
Now my grandmother, who has carried the mantel for this family since his departure, continually pledging her love for Claude Masse until the day she died.
We are here to honor her life today; I can only hope that my life can represent the love she had for everyone in this room, including me.
When I was in Memere’s presence I always felt safe. I was the focus of her attention; it was like no one else mattered. Memere loved me for who I was at any given time. She took me where I was and did not bother to ask about the past or say you should not have done that. We both knew and no words needed to be spoken. In her eyes she was simply glad I came back to her, just like Christ does.
She was there for me, wild and eighteen, trying to figure out who I was. She never questioned what I was doing; she just loved me. Later, when I came to grips with my addictions, she never shamed me for what I had done. She just said she was just glad I was safe and on the right path. Her only wish was that I would become a Democrat. Sorry, Memere…
Her love for me and the love Pepere had for me that presented itself over the years, propelled me to do better-not because they asked me to but because I wanted to in order to not disappoint their love for me . They both helped deliver the one-two punch in my life without one angry word, just loving heartfelt encouragement and a yearning that I would stay true to myself.
She never talked bad about anyone to me over the years. She just wanted to see everyone together, resolve their differences and have everyone spend time together, just like Christ does.
It is hard sometimes to figure out what Christ wants from us if all we do is watch the actions of other Christians, because though they might mean well, they are still imperfect and eventually we all get let down. However, Memere always said she was praying for those around her. She knew her Maker and she gave me one of the best representations of Christ’s teachings through her many loving and forgiving actions. She prayed faithfully and acknowledged God which is an example I follow. Pepere may have knocked me over the head with God’s help, but she was there over the years to help pick me up whenever I called.
Memere always showed me love and respect. She never tried to manipulate my actions with her words. A man’s core need is to be respected by those around him. God made men that way. Even when men do not deserve respect, a man responds to someone who treats him with respect even in his failings. It propels him to do better.
In my lowest moments, she still respected me as a man who needed to make his own decisions, whether right or wrong, but allowed me the dignity to come to my own realizations and love me in spite of all my spots and blemishes.
In the Bible, Jesus always demonstrated his respect to those he came across. He did not shame them, rather he just presented the truth and they were free to choose their path in hopes they would choose wisely. In every event he loved them, and had compassion and empathy towards them regardless of their choice.
Memere was not afraid to talk about God and she never tried to stifle the extreme joy I have in my heart to that end. When you see the workings of God in your life and you can trace it back to a point in time, it is no wonder why I proudly stand here today a man of God my grandparents can be proud of. So much so the last time I visited her she asked if I was a preacher yet. I can only say that I have a heart for God and the message of my life is open to all. I am reminded of what St. Francis of Assisi said, “Wherever you go, preach the Gospel. Only when necessary, use words.”
Finally, during my last visit I shared with her the final chapter in the book I have been writing for over a year. I wrote the last chapter 9 months ago on an airplane flying back from seeing my grandson for the first time, and since then I have been writing towards that end.
As we held hands and I read to her, I couldn’t help but weep. The words on the page reflected the love of God I possess in my heart and I can attribute that love based on the actions of these two people. How it touched her and me as the words were spoken. As I looked up from the pages into her eyes, she knew I was baring the soul of my life I have lived in the past, and the joy and redemption I have today. Her eyes became misty as I read into her spirit. When I was finished I looked up at her. There was no painful look on her face, only one of peace and she said, “That was beautiful.” And, we hugged in silence.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says is best. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 ]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
Memere was not ashamed of her life or the possessions she did not have. She focused on the important things; she loved her family, she loved Christ and last of all, I knew she loved me, and that knowledge helped me out of the grave I was in for so long…
That is why My Memere will always be my Valentine.