There’s no good way to get sad news

On most Saturday afternoons at my main parish, the Saturday Spanish singers and I have practice. We were working on the psalm for last weekend when I told the guy singing it that he was picking it up pretty fast.

“I think Eva is here,” he said, pointing at his heart. Eva is the Sunday Spanish cantor.

That was a weird statement. Eva and this singer had not always gotten along. Maybe it meant that they were on good terms, or that whatever annoying memories he had were motivating him to do well.

I clearly didn’t give him the reaction he expected, because he repeated it. A couple times, even. And I still wasn’t getting it.

“You don’t know?”

Oh, no. That’s never followed by good news. I looked at him quizzically.

“Eva died yesterday.”

My jaw dropped, and my heart sank. I had not heard, and I had not known she was hospitalized all week. I had seen her only a few days ago for the feast of the Assumption. Another cantor had called me the night before, but my phone wouldn’t let me answer it and she didn’t leave a voicemail. Figuring it was no big deal, I didn’t call back. I should have called back.

This led to a surreal weekend, in which we scrambled to tell the Saturday English Mass lector, a friend of Eva’s, what had happened before she saw Eva’s name as a prayer intention. To a mess of Saturday Mass where the fill-in priest was late and a bat kept flying around the church, eventually coming to rest on the stained glass window above the cantors. (I don’t think Eva would like the idea that that bat was representative of her presence, because what dead person wants to be thought as batty?) A Sunday English Mass where we had to tell more people, and after which her family showed up. A Sunday Spanish Mass where I helped with the singing and had to console a lot of others, while relying on my journalism training and put my own feelings aside to help others work through theirs.

There is no good way to learn about sad news like this, and no way to get through it cleanly. You can only do your best to get through. And in one way, we’re almost through. We bury Eva today. I am playing the funeral Mass. I can only hope and pray I do well enough to honor her and bring comfort to all those who love her.

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