By DAN COLLINS, Special To The Bulletin | Published April 16, 2009
Easter 2003. We were celebrating Easter at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas for the fourth consecutive year. Going to the Vigil started with my wife’s reception into the full communion of the Catholic faith in 1999. The Easter Vigil was now a very important part of our overall Easter experience. The Vigil service at St. Thomas Aquinas is not only beautiful in its pageantry, but it is a deeply moving experience.
But 2003 was different. My wife, Tamera, passed away unexpectedly on Good Friday. And less than 48 hours later, my two children and I were once again at the Vigil celebrating the resurrection of the Lord and the welcoming of the candidates and catechumens into the Catholic faith. The service felt much more personal and intense than any of the previous years. Though admittedly my emotions were getting the better part of me, I felt somewhat isolated in the midst of the almost 800 people because of the great sadness in my heart. As the homily ended, these words were spoken: “The difference that Easter makes is that death no longer is the end of life. It is not even the end of one’s life and the beginning of another life. We do not have two lives—one now and one later. We have one life and because of Christ, we will live forever.” Immediately I felt that God was reaching out to comfort me and talking to me about Tamera. God was letting me know that He had already welcomed her home to celebrate with Him. As the joyous experience of the Vigil Mass continued to unfold, I soon felt the presence of my wife with me in the Catholic Church that she so loved.
Easter will always be for me the greatest celebration. It is the Resurrection of the Lord but also promises new life for us. When I hear of families that have lost a loved one, I reflect on that Easter 2003 experience and think of those moving words.
Dan Collins and his family have been members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish since 1995. He is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. His children, Matthew and Emily, are altar servers.