As to when I not only knew my father was a funeral director but understood what that meant, I think it was before I started grade school. I’d stand at a living room window to watch men carry a casket across the street into the Catholic church or watch the black hearse pull out of the driveway to go to another church. I often say I knew death before I knew life. A child with a wild imagination, I felt as if I could hear the tears of the grieving in the funeral home under our apartment. I imagined the sounds somehow traveled up through my feet to my heart. I remember a child drowning the weekend of July 4th and hearing the screams of his mother as she called his name, “Joseph, Joseph, wake up!” I was old enough by then to flee down the stairs and out the front door. Life was fragile, precarious, and its length unpredictable. I prayed young to live life intensely, to not miss anything. The truth is if you live life too intensely you’ll miss things as you over-focus on something and miss others. St. Bernard’s Catholic Church across the street was a refuge for me as soon as I was allowed to cross the street after looking both ways. It was quiet in there, peaceful. I’d tiptoe to the front left side for a conversation with the mother of Jesus or to look at the huge crucifix and feel so sad for the man on that cross. I didn’t really grasp the Gospel until I was in my mid 40s and then Christ became the pulse of my life. Growing up with the notion that death comes swiftly and sometimes very unfairly seems like a strange concept to accept, particularly for a child, Yet, in looking back, I believe I accepted it more easily than I do as an adult today. Today, I treasure my life and my relationships. I loved the funeral home as a child, strange as it sounds. It was a place where I knew God lived, where God cared, where He comforted and where He helped me accept that others had come home to be with Him. That upbringing serves to remind me that every moment is a precious gift, to never reject this gift, like one can so easily reject other gifts - oh, it isn't my right color, my right size or my right style. And I pray I fully appreciate this gift and honor it daily through kind word or deed.