By Fr. Don Braukmann / Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston
In my last column, I spoke very briefly about a 90-year-old woman in Mahnomen who left her Christmas tree up in her home from Thanksgiving to Groundhog Day! Well, Sally Simon, a second Mom to me, passed away early in the morning on Thursday, April 4.
I was not able to be at the funeral, which was hard to miss, but by all reports Sally’s life was celebrated well and she was placed into the arms of Christ by those who loved her.
Sally’s son was my roommate while I attended the University of Minnesota, Crookston, from 1978-80. As I said, she was and still is a second Mom to me. In a world so desperately in search of understanding, hope and joy, she delivered all three to those who stepped into her world.
The door to Sally’s heart was locked in the unlocked position and the key was long gone. She truly celebrated a visitor’s arrival with a hoot, a hug, and the immediate search for food to feed us!
Sally, I have loved you as a Mother. I still do as you now stand with mine in Heaven. I know you wanted to beat me to Heaven … and you did … I pray I am not far behind.
Deacon Tim Pribula gave the homily at Sally’s funeral at St. Michael’s in Mahnomen. He did a fantastic job for he knew Sally well and loved her along with so many of us. He put into words who Sally was and I want to share part of his homily with you:
I first met Sally after Mass many years ago. I was drawn to her in part because of the eye-patched glasses she wore. You see, my own mother suffered from double vision for many years before she passed away and also wore a patch on her glasses. The more I got to know Sally, the more she reminded me of my own mother.
I came to find out that Sally had lost her eye in a terrible car accident so long ago. An accident which left her alone for many years. Her lack of sight continued to worsen until eventually she could no longer see in her remaining eye. Doctors tried to restore her sight but were only partially successful as she could only make out shapes and shadows toward the end of her life. Still, if you ever asked Sally how she felt she would always say “I’m fine, no use in complaining.” And then she would seriously add that life’s been so good to her; truly she had faith in God and faith also in Jesus.
I cannot imagine seeing and then having your sight taken away from you. I have to admit, I would be a little bitter, but this wasn’t Sally.
No, Sally was content with life. Caring in life. Accepting in life. And sometimes brutally honest in life. I remember hearing one day that the flu was going around at the nursing home and I decided not to visit for the next few weeks. When I finally saw Sally and explained why I hadn’t visited her, she leaned forward, shifted her head so the one good eye could look me square in my face and with a serious voice loud enough for everyone to hear, she simply answered: “Chicken ****!” And she didn’t laugh or smile at all, she meant it. That was Sally! And I loved her for it.
I loved Sally. So, it hurts to not see her now. When my wife told me that Sally had passed away, I sat in my office and cried. It was a great loss to me. I had journeyed with Sally toward her eternal life and I wasn’t ready for her to go. I wanted to see her again. I asked Jesus to let me see her. I want to see Sally! I felt cheated.
But suddenly a voice in my mind said “Have you not learned anything from Sally? Did you not see what Sally had taught you?”
Here was a kind old lady who knew suffering. A kind old lady who at one time had beautiful eyes that saw clearly but now for most of her life, could barely see.
Yet, Sally saw the kindness in everyone she met. Sally saw the good in people everywhere.
Sally saw her children grow to be worthy and was so proud of them. Sally saw the fate of her life and yet believed with all her heart that God had been so good to her.
Maybe instead of asking Jesus “I want to see Sally,” maybe I should be asking Jesus “I want to see like Sally.”
I want to see the kindness in everyone around me. I want to see the good in people I meet.
I want to see my children grow old and be worthy. I want to see that “God is so Good,” even when my life doesn’t seem fair. Especially when life doesn’t seem fair!
So I pray, “Jesus, I want to see like Sally.” Maybe we all should pray: “Jesus, I want to see like Sally.”