Friday, April 07, 2017

Lisa Martin, 1959-2017

Lisa Martin 1959-2017
(In 1996 my niece was at Santa Anita Park enjoying her work showing off thoroughbreds to prospective buyers when she had a severe heart attack that left her in a persistent vegetative state for the last twenty-one years.   She loved horses from the time when she was a little girl and spent some twenty years caring for horses and working with some great trainers.  She was with some family members when her body quietly stopped functioning on April 2, 2017   All along we knew that God was taking care of her in ways that we cannot understand.)

(Homily at her Funeral Mass, April 6, 2017)
God’s Spirit was with Lisa all these twenty-one years that her body lingered with us.  I believe she came to know that she was completely in God’s hands but still she looked for release knowing that we who loved her were groaning and waiting.
She found herself in those states of heart and mind that Jesus aligns with God’s blessings: blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor, blessed the patiently single-hearted and more.  God prepared blessings for her: an inheritance, abundant consolations, and the sight of the divine.
We ask this morning that the Spirit help our hearts connect with the consoling images that Jesus presents of the heavenly kingdom.  The Spirit of God inspires Jesus to express our future presence with his Father by using images of what it will be like.   These images express the experience that the deceased among our loved ones have after death.  The heavenly kingdom is like a wedding feast, like sons and daughters finding their way home, like a threshing floor where the goodness in every human heart is preserved in the harvest.   Jesus speaks, too, of the chasms now existing that will endure in the world to come between the greedy and the poor.   But still God’s mercy rules even over these splits in the kingdom.   Jesus tells us all this and then in his death he goes to prepare a place for us.

Our mourning over Lisa has lasted twenty-one years.  She had wonderful care at Pine Run; she stayed there long enough to get upgrades in her accommodations.  Ron and Eileen were attentive to her care in every respect.    From her birth and then from the very moment of her heart attack, God surrounded Lisa with love, a love that will last in our eternity, that love now a sign of God’s transcendent love. 
Our gift of faith gives us this language but still we yearn to have Lisa tell us what it was like all those years.  Perhaps these long years were for her only a short journey to her new home.  Even among us from time to time our mourning was eased by the consolations that the Spirit encouraged among us, her family and friends.   Lisa shared in that same Spirit of God.  We can say for her that eternity itself replaced the manmade structure of time.  Lisa measured her experience with the memory of so many joys in family and friendships and with the memory of her career caring for her prized horses.   If she had dreams they always were leading to a place of discovery and peace even if in our eyes these dreams only got there on Saturday.
And wondering about the position of mind and body in which she found herself, Lisa might have heard some of the words that the biblical Job heard in his own distress, having lost his health and all his family and possessions to boot.  In the book of Job he hears God talk about some of the natural wonders of the world….He hears God’s voice talk with him about the part of God’s creation that Lisa knew through and through, the horse….   So God spoke to her in words like those that Job wrote down:
“Are you the one who gives the horse its strength
or clothes its neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make it leap like a locust,….
with its proud snorting?
The horse paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,…
It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing.
God gradually convinces Job that God knows how to care for all creation and in due time will take care of Job himself answering all his questions.    Lisa found herself placed fully in the same love that created all of life, in the same love that saved Job.
While the rest of us pursued our futures in conventional classrooms and careers and styles of family life, Lisa always danced to a different tune.  Her love for the world of horses led her to find satisfaction in courageous things…living on her own in distant places, finding friendship not only in those surrounding the stables but also in the horses themselves.    Without a doubt some of those horses loved her.  Some rewarded her courage and her confidence in them.  They showed off just for her on those early mornings when they carried her at breakneck speeds around the practice track.  They always kept her safe.
We all have a prized memory and this is mine: I visited her in Saratoga in the summer of 1985.   I remember arriving with her at the stables just as the sun was coming up on a perfect setting of stately trees and brilliant light.  I peeked into the stables fit for the sport of kings; I watched her and her horse enjoy their exercise.   I sat quietly drinking my morning coffee in the peace and beauty of the place.   The truth was evident.   I and the rest of the family who visited there knew that Lisa had found a place that blessed her.   A place, yes, with the roar of the crowd at the track and the adrenalin of competition but it was surely the horses themselves that captured her focus, their welfare, their beauty, the wonder of their relationships with her and the others in their community.
Let us end with another Biblical image of horses, this one in the New Testament.  There are four horses in the visionary Book of Revelation.  In that vision the horses will gallop into our world announcing the Day of Judgment.   To us ordinary men and women the riders on these horses and even the horses themselves will appear frightening but riders and horses, too, will be performing the purposes of God.   God bless you, Lisa.   You are not afraid.  You now know all about the four horses of the apocalypse.  I imagine you now befriending them and keeping them healthy and content as they await their day of service.  That is what you loved to do.   Whisper to them, Lisa.  Whisper to them.  And put in a good word for us.

1 comment:

Liz McCabe said...

Fr. Bur; Your homily made Lisa's funeral extra beautiful! Lisa was so blessed to have you and the rest of her wonderful family in her life!