Just look at the silvery linings to those clouds, shining in our direction straight from Heaven.
This post is all about a truly wonderful lady whom my wife, Maria, knew for 47 years, since she was a child. I too have known her and her late husband Kazik for well over 36 years. Throughout she has been so very kind to so many, so generous, so genuine and so friendly. Above all she was so humble. She was 80 when she died and the world is a much poorer place without her.
Wasn't she a beautiful young lady? She was just 17 in this photograph, taken in 1945.
Today was her funeral - a full blown Catholic Requiem Mass, held at a church we know very well. We married there, Maria's parents had their funerals there, our daughter was Christened there. Maria had her First Communion there. We have very fond memories of this Church and, although I am not a Catholic yet a strong Christian, I feel very much at home there.
Today, at her funeral, we celebrated the life of Helena Bronislawa Kuca whom we respectfully always called Mrs Kuca. She was Polish and had a very hard time in the second world war under the heel of Nazi Germany. For a time she was held in an 'experimental' concentration camp where she was treated badly. We do not know exactly what happened to her but can imagine the ordeals she must have experienced. The photograph was taken just after the Allies freed her and many others. She later married Mr Kuca and they lived in England since the war.
Mrs Kuca was a very devout Catholic and attended Mass daily. That alone is a wonderful feat of dedication to Our Lord. Since Kazik's death she made the church, the parish, the people and Jesus her total life and she was a faithful servant for many years, right to the end. Recently, on her way walking to church, she collapsed and was taken to hospital where she died.
Throughout her life, she and her husband were very kind and, because she could have no children of her own, she treated all young people in the Parish as though they were her own. I remember in 1973 she and Kazik bought us a fridge for our wedding present. It lasted over 30 years, so she must have given it lovingly mustn't she? I remember going to Currys for a replacement and when the sales attendant asked me what I wanted I said I would like a fridge like my last one which would last 30 years. The answer and look I got I shall not repeat! Mrs Kuca was not only interested in us but our children too and watched she them grow up and loved both them and us. She touched a lot of lives - just imagine how many families were recipients of her love and generosity.
I could not take a photograph of the interior of the church but try to imagine the inside of the most beautiful church you have ever seen, in terms of design and architecture, lighting, furnishings and stain glass windows. Stop for a moment and search your mind. . . . . and try to remember. . . . . . We saw it again today and there was such an atmosphere there because over 400 people attended Mrs Kuca's funeral, such was the love and respect this dear lady had from her many friends who all turned out for her. She got the send-off she truly deserved - magnificent.
To honour her no fewer than seven priests officiated at her funeral as they surrounded the altar; two Polish priests and five English priests - they all loved her and three of them gave glowing testimonies of her in their addresses in English and in Polish, since there were a large number of Polish friends attending. Maria's parents were both Polish and she speaks the language very well, saying the tributes from the Polish priest were truly amazing.
The time came for us to go to the front for communion (in my case a blessing, since I am not a Catholic). We filed past Mrs Kuca, kissed our hands and placed them on the coffin as a final act of love and respect for her. Maria broke down on one occasion along with many others. As for me I was really happy for her because now she would be reunited finally with her husband, Kazik, lost to her 9 years ago and, of course, she would be with Jesus at last. If she is not in Heaven right now then nobody is.
The tributes from friends were wonderful and endless - she touched so many lives - accolade after accolade was showered upon her, the final one being, "She is the brightest star amongst the stars". As a person I rate her right at the top of the tree. Not many come close to her, only perhaps Edna and Marjorie, who I will tell you about one day.
The funeral service was almost over, and time for Mrs Kuca to be committed for burial at the cemetery. The service had been a Requiem Mass which sounds a bit daunting and a bit heavy - nothing of the sort - not at all - it was truly wonderful and actually enjoyable. The feeling of total peace that came across to everyone was truly staggering.
As we sang the final hymn the pall bearers carried the coffin, draped with a Polish flag, along the aisle towards the rear of the church with the seven priests following the mortal remains of our dear friend, soon to be buried.
In my mind I saw a much bigger and higher spiritual picture of what was occurring and this gave me a feeling of great joy. Very slowly a figure materialised facing us from the position where the coffin had been in front of the altar - the detail became very clear after a few moments. I saw the real living Mrs Kuca, but now a lovely young lady once more, smiling at us. She was recognisable as young Helena but much more beautiful than the photograph portrays. She was radiant and clothed in light, just like Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Beside her two angels each took a hand and gently carried her higher, then higher, ever so slowly at first. A brilliant white beam of light connected them to infinity. Normal time and space were modified for the occasion. In my mind's-eye I heard a choir of angels sing music with such beauty as I never heard before. As they ascended further, I saw beyond the roof - they passed straight through it unhindered. They journeyed ever upwards, towards the first Heaven then the second Heaven - I could still see them - ever upwards, further and further, through the clouds and then through the whole universe straight to the third Heaven, the Throne Room of God. The light was so intense I could just bear it but I was not allowed to see further. They stopped and waited a while and I saw a figure stepping out of the light walking slowly towards Helena. As it came nearer I saw a young man in his twenties and he too was radiant with a wonderful smile on his face. I recognised him as Kazik. He held out his hand to greet her, she took it and as their eyes met for the first time no-one was permitted to see her face, only him, just for that moment. After a while motionless together and still hand in hand, they turned towards the powerful almost unbearable light, walking away from me. To tumultuous applause they passed through it into eternal paradise and out of sight for ever, this time not as husband and wife but as part of the bride of Christ and into God's Heavenly purposes.
I am honoured to receive this Post Of The Day (runner up) from David McMahon of Authorblog, awarded 2 March 2009. Thank you David for my first award which means a lot to me. Click to see it and interestingly my sister Maggie May was also awarded a runner up POTD.