Friday, September 28, 2007
Funeral for Efrain Palacios
Today the funeral for Efrain Palacios was held at the local Catholic church. Terri and I wanted to pay our respects to Efrain and the Palacios family, so we attended the service. Although we are not Catholics by faith (we are Mormons), I was very impressed and touched by the wonderful service that was held.
As is typical of Catholic churches, the church on Tinian was built in the shape of a cross. The altar is at the center of the 'cross' and there is seating and an entry door provided at three legs of the 'cross' (the top of the 'cross' is used by the Priest, and is the back of the altar). It seemed as though the entire community came out to honor Efrain, as the church was full to capacity, and there were people spilling out of all three doors. In addition, there was another large group seated under tents outside of the church.
Perhaps the most touching scene for me was when the family gathered around the casket to say their last good-byes to Efrain before the casket was closed for the last time. There truly was not a dry eye from any of us attending the service, as our hearts and minds strained to comfort this grieving family.
Songs were sung, mass was said, and the sacrament given to those who desired it, all with the greatest reverence and solemnity. Then, as the casket was taken out and driven to the gravesite, another wonderful event occured. The school children had been permitted to leave school, and they lined the road between the church and the cemetary! Perhaps only on a small, close-knit island could I have seen such a display of compassion, as the entire community honored the memory of Efrain and did what they could to support the Palacios family.
Terri and I have been kindly and graciously accepted into this community since moving here, and the help we have received from the local people has been greatly appreciated. The love and sense of community that we saw displayed today gave us a greater understanding of how lucky we are to be living on Tinian.
All individuals, all families, and all communities are forced to go through tough times-- whether it be a death or a loss of employment, or some other trial that is so much a part of life on this earth. It is how the individual, family, or community reacts to and deals with those trials that make them increase in faith and strength or permit life to weaken and crush them. The people of Tinian are definitely the former: they have shown how a group of individuals can come together with a sense of love and community and find the strength to overcome one of life's cruelest tests, the death of a young man before his time.
Once again, our thoughts and prayers are with the Placios family. The greatest comfort we can give them is the sure knowledge that they will see Efrain again! Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will have the joy of seeing and living with our loved ones again. This is the only thing I know that can take away the pain and sorrow that comes with the death of a loved one-- the faith and knowledge that God is loving and kind, and has provided a way for all his children to find peace and happiness. That peace and happiness can be obtained by all, regardless of the trials we may face, by knowing and understanding the plan of salvation: that God has provided a way for all his children to be together again in the next life. Death is not the end of life, just a stage in our eternal progression. The day will come when we will be reunited with our loved ones. Knowing this to be true brings understanding and peace to the soul.