Today was spent in memory of Sean Maher. Sean is one of the three “neighbors” we went in with to buy the chicken plucker. The funeral was today at the Basilica of Saint John’s in Des Moines. I’m obviously not the only one who had great respect for Sean, as the priest noted it was the largest funeral in the Basilica in the 11 years he’s presided at there. As funerals go, it was a wonderful service with many priests, wonderful organ music, a children’s choir, and vocalists as part of the mass.
Sean had a big family, pictured here. He was stricken with tongue cancer about a year ago, and after a whole range of highly compassionate and thorough care, including a trip to Ecuador for treatments not yet available in the United States, he passed away this week, at age 49 (blog with the story here). Sean, was a natural-born leader in the best sense of the word. He had an infectious smile and truly was happy to live.
He loved to play in the dirt. He was a big, teddy-bear kind of guy, captain and running back of two Dartmouth Ivy League football teams (obit and online photo book). (Photo credits for this post go to the online memory book, where these photos came from).
But he also cleaned up nicely. He really was a man who loved and put his family first and really meant it.
He and his wife are one of those couples that had so much love and respect for each other that you knew they were a “lock” to stay together “til death do us part.” In Sean’s case, this was a great 27 years. Did I say that Sean was also a lot of fun and had a bit ‘o Irish in him? He brought “beer to the basilica” as after the mass was over, there was a meal in the church basement that featured Guinness for all! I’ll leave you with some words his wife wrote on the blog concerning his death and the last year.
We lit holy candles, were all praying, singing, and whispering consoling words, stroking his head and kissing his head, holding hands, etc. He received Viaticum (holy communion for the dying – literally “with you for the way” )- food for the journey from this world to the next. Very comforting. Bryan, our son-in-law, read the prayers for the dying from the Handbook of Catholic Prayers, a profession of Faith, a Litany of the Saints, The Chaplet of Divine Mercy…Just prior to this, he was anxious and confused and terribly uncomfortable. Maddie and I got to work when we knew what was going on, called in reinforcements, and did what we knew to do from our Catholic training. We comforted him then, just as we comforted him all along this long, precious, arduous time of purification and suffering. Jack and I were at his head, and we watched as he most peacefully and quietly breathed his last…It was so beautiful, still unexpected to all of us there in the bedroom, but so sweet…
This past year was perhaps the sweetest and most intimate of all our married years. We spent more time together, and we both realized how deep our love for each other really was. This sublime love for each other is just so precious, and even though I thought we were going to come out of it and just really rock, (sorry, I have lots of teens and I can’t think of a better term), I think everything will be OK because I really feel his closeness to me and our family – strong.