The following is the homily given by Father Brian Bachmeier at the prayer service for Charity on January 21st, 1998:
Life on this earth is truly a mystery. A mystery too deep for any human being to completely understand. We are gathered here today slapped in the face with this mystery. A young woman we know and love has suddenly been taken from us; and it hurts. Why her? Why so suddenly? Why so young? I would be a fool and a liar if I said I can answer these and all the other questions which flood our minds at this time. No one can give a definitive answer to these questions. Only the God who took her home to Himself can tell us His ultimate purpose.
But I know God had a purpose in giving us the beautiful gift of Charity Mae Kohlman for 16 years. The world was a better place because she was in it. She brought life and light to those around her, to her family, her friends and her school. She was a model for all of us in accepting hardship and making the most of the years God gave her. And while it may be hard on us to see her go, as Christians we have faith and hope that Charity will suffer no more, that the Good Lord has a better place for her now.
Our first reading this evening compared our present earth and our present life to the new earth and the new heaven of eternal life. On this earth Charity had to struggle and suffer, often secretly, with the knowledge of her heart condition. She knew since her childhood that she would never see children of her own or a ripe old age. You can imagine the suffering and tears that this knowledge must have caused her as she grew up. Yet the word of God assures us today in its beautiful words about the next life that, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall be no more death or mourning, no more wailing or pain, for the old order will have passed away.”
Charity has now passed from the old order of this life. We believe that where she now is she will never cry again. In heaven there is no such thing as a heart condition. While Charity’s health forced her to drop out of her beloved dance here on this earth there will be no limit to her dancing with the angels in heaven.
Our gospel reading today also provides us with some very beautiful words and it gives us a very strong and very confident hope in the resurrection. Jesus tells us in this gospel and I quote, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me and I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” Let’s look at these words in the light of Charity’s life.
Judy, Charity’s mother, told me that every evening she would say good night to Charity before going to bed and that the two of them had this almost ritual routine for doing so. Charity would always tell Judy good night with the same line of twenty words, but the last ones were always, “I’ll pray for you. Will you pray for me?” Judy said she could never leave before she promised to pray for her daughter. The last words of each day referred to prayer, to that act of coming to ask the Lord for His help.
And in addition to this listen also to the other words of Jesus in today’s gospel. Jesus said, “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life and I will raise them on the last day.” Well, Charity’s last act in a church, just hours before she passed, was a public profession of her belief in Christ.
The night before she died I baptized Charity’s little sister, Summer Lynn, whom she loved so dearly. And Charity was present at this baptism as her sister’s godmother. During the baptism ceremony one of the duties of the godparent is to profess the vows of their baptism again publicly stating that they believe in Jesus Christ. And this was exactly what Charity did in a church just hours before she went back to her creator.
In today’s gospel Jesus promised that He would never reject those who came to Him and Charity came to Him every night in prayer. Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would have eternal life and Charity publicly professed her belief in Him in a church hours before going home.
So in the end we may not know exactly why God chose to call Charity when He did. Ultimately only God knows this. But as Christians we believe in a life after this one – in a new heaven and new earth where all suffering and pain will be gone forever. Given the way that Charity ended her days with prayer and her life with a public profession of faith in Christ I think the final word that we should walk out of here with today is a very strong and a very confident hope in the resurrection.
Always remember that Charity kept her heart condition a secret from people so that they wouldn’t feel sorry for her here on this earth. Well, where she is now I don’t think she wants us to feel sorry for her either. As Christians we have faith that that beautiful, pure face of hers is smiling still today and that’s how I think she would want us to remember her.
Finally, and probably the best words to conclude with come from her mother in this morning’s paper and I think they’re probably the most fitting end to this prayer service because they are so beautiful, faith-filled and positive. Judy told the reporters, “I’m the luckiest person on earth. God gave me a glorious 16 years.” Yes, Judy, together with you we thank our heavenly Father for the gift of Charity Mae Kohlman and we thank Him for the beautiful gift of heaven where our faith tells us that we can see her smiling face again.
Fr. Bachmeier is Associate Pastor of Sts. Anne & Joachim Catholic Church, Fargo.