Jane was dead.
Hours earlier, perhaps even as much as a day earlier, she knew she was dying.
She had faced death before and successfully managed to rally all her strength to fight off death’s seemingly inescapable grip. At that time, she had had three small children who still needed her, and she was determined that she would not leave her children to be raised without a mother.
Now, her children were grown, and all three had left the nest.
Now, facing a more serious illness than she had ever before experienced, she knew there was nothing anyone could do to save her life.
And now, Jane was dead.
Jane had, a few years earlier, written her Last Will and Testament. In it, she had specified if she were in a medical situation where her life could only be maintained by extraordinary means, that she be allowed to die. Now, her husband and her eldest child instructed her doctors to disconnect her from the equipment that was keeping her alive.
And now, Jane was indeed dead.
In her will, Jane left all her possessions to her husband. In her will, she also provided instructions that her body be cremated after death.
Despite her known wishes, Jane’s family could not bear to see her cremated. As Roman Catholics, they decided to follow the Church’s teaching that the earthly remains of the deceased should be buried, not cremated. Jane’s will would not be read until after the burial, and the family suspected that no judge would order the body to be exhumed and cremated against the will of the deceased’s husband and children.
And now, Jane’s body lay in a casket in a funeral home across the street from the parish church where the Mass of Requiem was to be celebrated.
On the evening of the wake, Jane’s family and friends gathered at the funeral home to mourn her passing. The atmosphere was somber. Few people even spoke to each other as they waited for the parish priest to arrive to lead the prayers for the repose of Jane’s soul.
And then, the mourners heard sirens in the distance.
The sound of the sirens grew nearer and louder until they stopped in the street between the funeral home and the church. Those gathered in the funeral home looked at each other in surprise as they realized the sirens were those of fire engines, and their surprise turned to disbelief as they realized that the church across the street was ablaze.
The firefighters managed to extinguish the fire in short order and, soon thereafter, one of the parish priests entered the funeral home to tell the mourners that the church had been damaged to the extent that the Mass of Requiem could not be held there.
Jane’s funeral was moved to a nearby chapel. The Mass of Requiem was celebrated and Jane’s body was interred in a local cemetery without further incident.
The fire in the church was cause for some speculation on the part of the mourners. Had Jane reached out from beyond death to leave a message for her family? Was she upset that her family had not complied with her wish to be cremated? Or was the fire just a coincidence?
I know what I believe, because Jane was my mother.
And now it’s your turn to decide if this story is fact or fiction…
Written for the 58th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.
Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko