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When a Loved One Dies Prematurely

Last week, I had the bittersweet honor of ministering to a family whose college-aged son died suddenly.

The week was a reminder to me of many things: One, the privledge we clergy are given, when tragedy strikes, to enter into people's raw emotions. Two, how important it is for everyone, when tragedy strikes, to have strong family, faith, and friendship nets to fall into. And, three, how important it is for me not to try to be a lone ranger in such times but instead to reach out and ask friends and colleagues and intercessors to "minister to the minister" through their prayers.

Intercessory prayer was particularly helpful in writing the funeral homily.

One of my intercessory pray-ers shared with me, over the phone, that she had lost a brother suddenly as well, and gave me words, and Words (from Scripture) that she found comfort in.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, I was able to run with those thoughts and write a homily the family found helpful. 

I share it here because if the comments from many at the funeral reception were any indication, these may be -- again, thanks to the Holy Spirit -- helpful words to anyone who has had a loved one die prematurely.


  1. Thank you Fr. John. I have often imagined that our arrival in heaven looks something like the international arrivals gate at the airport... Crowds of people all eagerly anticipating the reunion with their loved one ... straining to see as folks come through the door... is that him/her? ... holding flowers, posters, balloons... wait... I think... YES there he/she is! And suddenly there are shrieks and shouts of joy and gladness and running to be the first one to hug and kiss and welcome them home... and everyone trying to talk all at once and smiles beaming everywhere... home... home at last. Allison Cornell

  2. I just listened to your homily, and was moved to tears. I felt it to my bones. Not only did it capture the pain of unexpected death, but it also accurately describes the emotional limitations & paradoxes of loving someone, who is not dead, but lost to you nonetheless --- through mental illness, addiction, or simply the alienation that often occurs as a by-product of the vicissitudes of life. And yet even in such darkness, with your trademark compassion, you give hope, and remind us of God's promise to hold out his arms.


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