I don’t usually cry at funerals—cannot remember the last time I did—but I couldn’t make it through the homily without weeping. I hadn’t planned on a funeral that day. But death had found us, cutting down this poor man who hadn’t had much a life, by my reckoning. We inevitably think of our own lives when we stand before death, and how it’s poor significance will end bitterly one day. This man, a life so briefly lived, dying mostly unknown and unloved. “He won’t get a funeral unless we give him one now,” Sr. John Marie had said. They were just going to take him away and cremate him at some state facility.
But here he was with the sisters, who loved him with the immaculate heart of God’s own Mother. “I have lived like an animal,” a dying destitute once told Mother Teresa, “but now I die like an angel.” Indeed, I was the only one crying at Hugo’s makeshift funeral. The sisters were themselves peaceful, even radiant, to be at the bedside of one who was “one his way to God,” as Mother Teresa had painted in the morgue at her Home for Dying Destitute in Calcutta. The sting of death, the sorrow of an “insignificant” life, has all been done away with today, Good Friday, by God’s own death. No life is meaningless now, and no death unknown. His eye is on the sparrow who falls to the ground, and on Hugo, and on you and on me as well.