Being There for the Bereaved

This Bereavement Group was established in 1993/94 by our Parish Priest Father Ryan (now elevated to the title of Canon) and Sister Louise, who was followed later by Sister Rosario. A number of parishioners were invited to join the Group. I believe most of us had reservations, but we agreed, when Sister assured us that we would not be acting as counsellors, but as mainly listeners; carrying messages of support from the Canon and Parish Community.

The Canon now holds a monthly meeting and gives us a brief background report of the deceased, that will help us at our visits to the bereaved. There are seven members in the Group and it’s at these meeting, we realise the power of the work that the Canon does in the background. We report to him, after visiting the relatives in our “neck of the woods.”

In East Kilbride the majority of the bereaved have relatives, or close friends, who are there to support them. Some need a few visits, others are content with one or two.

Occasionally, we meet a partner or single person who have no relatives nearby. If they so desire, we invite them for a cup of tea or coffee, or encourage them to come to our Thursday Coffee Morning after Mass. Some of the ladies, also, come to the Phoenix Club. It’s at this time, we sincerely wish that there was some sort of sodality for widowers and single men.

In the early days, several offered to work in charity shops and as a result made lasting friendships. lt amazes us how most people accept the loss of a loved one and, perhaps, help others. lt can be a rewarding experience for us, which gives us an added insight into how to handle our own lives.

lt is not always “tea and sympathy” or “doom and gloom”. Amazing things occur. Like, for instance, the son of a widower, who was very concerned about an “old couple”, who had visited his father that day. He phoned Sister Sheila to check up on us. About that time, a couple had conned themselves into houses in West Mains and then made off with valuables. On being informed about this incident, Canon Ryan remarked tongue-in-cheek, “That’s why SAVE THE CHILDREN shop is stacked to the gunnels.”

On another occasion, Canon Ryan conveyed to us how a Mr McLaughlin from the Cooperative Funeral Service raced up the Expressway from after a Travellers’ funeral. Apparently, after the interment of the deceased, the opposing factions of the said deceased, outwith the area, had armed themselves with pick handles and weapons out of their vans to settle old grievances. Fortunately, the police were at the cemetery gates.

On a more engaging occasion, there was what you might call a happy ending for a partner on his death-bed! He received five sacraments from the Canon: Baptism, Communion, Confirmation Matrimony and the Sacrament of the Sick.

On the First of November, Canon Ryan, assisted by Father Tom, offers a special Requiem for all the bereaved in the Parish. An invitation is sent from the Canon to all the bereaved of the past year. This began in 1994 and the church is now packed on that memorable night, bereaved from previous years, are invited to light a candle in memory of the “Light of their lives.”

The Music Group sing appropriate hymns in the background at this extremely emotional time. Later, they are joined in the hymn singing by the congregation. At the end of Mass, we all retire to the side chapel for a chat and a light supper, with home baking supplied by Sister Sheila and others.

A warm thanks is due to the Music Group and. also, to the St Vincent de Paul, who escort people to and from the church, as and when they are required on the night. The feedback from the bereaved is very positive and a special vote of thanks must be recorded for Canon Ryan’s setting up of the evening. He now regards this Mass as one of his “highlights of the year.”

Agnes Brennan