The Catholic Funerals of Father Purfield and M. Yang
It’s only February, but we’ve already had our fair share of funerals.
This weekend, we attended the funeral of Father Purfield, the priest from the parish I grew up in, as well as the funeral of M. Yang, my cousin’s grandma.
Both Father Purfield and M. Yang lived long, full, and successful lives.
Father Purfield was 94 years old when he passed.
M. Yang was 89.
Two Very Different Funerals
An American Catholic Funeral
Father Purfield’s funeral began with a 2-hour viewing this past Sunday followed by the Rosary. His funeral mass was held the next day, Monday.
The viewing was at our parish and my oldest sister and I arrived just as it began. There were only about 50 or so people there, but we nevertheless formed a long line to have a moment to view Father Purfield’s body.
The church was quiet except for the piano music of Catholic hymns playing through the speaker system.
Although it was peaceful, I was saddened that his viewing was so quiet and lasted only 2-hours. I longed for more reflection and discussion about his life.
Father Purfield’s funeral contrasted greatly from the Hmong funerals that I’ve been accustomed to and, thus, to M. Yang’s funeral.
A Hmong Catholic Funeral
M. Yang’s funeral was a 3-day event. The first two days were full days that started from 9 am and went until 10 pm both nights. These two days were lined up with speeches, videos, and performances to honor M. Yang’s life.
The third day was her funeral mass and burial.
After Father Purfield’s viewing, I attended M. Yang’s funeral with my husband and kids.
When we arrived, they were just finishing up dinner but there was still plenty of food left. All the food was prepared in the Hmong tradition from the cows and pigs that were slaughtered for the funeral. There was larb, bitter soup, salad with pork skin, beef skewers and more.
The funeral home was packed with friends and family of M. Yang, which, by my guess was around 400 or so people at the time we were there.
Although there were moments of grief and sadness, the atmosphere was rather lively. There was excitement about seeing relatives and friends that had come from afar.
I met several people that I hadn’t seen for many, many years and it was good to catch up.
I was surprised to learn about M. Yang’s family tree and all the people who descended from her. Many of them I had grown up with and had no idea that they were connected to her.
Her family tree was so interesting that I had my mom recount the tree to me two more times as I marveled at how far the tree extended. My mom had grown up in the same town in Laos as M. Yang’s family, so she knew their tree quite well.
Two Very Different But Successful Lives
The Success of Seeing God’s Promise of Descendants Fulfilled
M. Yang lived a humble life. Her favorite pastimes, like many older Hmong women, were gardening and watching t.v.
When I think about her legacy, I am reminded of something my dad told me.
4 years ago, my dad was facing the decision of whether to have open-heart surgery or continue immense suffering as well as a high chance of death by not doing anything.
Of course, I wanted him to have the surgery because I wanted him to be here on earth a little longer.
I asked him why he was so reluctant to have the surgery. Didn’t he want to be with us a little longer?
His response was that he felt that he had lived a long and full life.
He said his biggest success was having 7 children and being able to see all of us grow up and have good lives.
On top of that, he also got to see some of us start families of our owns, and thus, he got to see his grandchildren.
And lastly, as is not unusual in Hmong thinking, he felt peace in knowing that one of his sons (his first son and my older brother) had also fathered a son and therefore, the clan name from his bloodline would continue.
My dad told me that, because of all this, he felt like he had won in this life.
He felt like he was incredibly lucky and blessed. Therefore, he was not afraid or reluctant if it was his time to go.
M. Yang was 89 years old when she passed away. She had 4 children, 25 grandchildren, and over 60 great-grandchildren.
In light of what my dad said, M. Yang too undoubtedly had a full and successful life.
The Success Of Having A Positive Impact On The Lives Of Others
On the other hand, Father Purfield had no children and thus, no descendants. Yet, he has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people through his work as a Catholic priest.
He served as a priest for 66 years.
He has ministered sacraments to thousands of people.
Thousands have heard his homilies.
He has undoubtedly inspired many people.
He has changed the lives of many people, myself included.
He has brought many people closer to Jesus and therefore, many will obtain the promise of eternal life because of the work he did.
What an amazingly successful life he had!
Although I was saddened that more was not done to honor Father Purfield at his funeral, I know that a successful life is not about the number of people that show up or the grandness put to the occasion.
Nevertheless, my mom informed me that the church was completely filled for the Rosary for Father Purfield. Also, his funeral mass was attended by hundreds and celebrated with dozens of priests as well as the Archbishop.
Also, I realize that there are many different ways a life can be successful.
And even though I feel sorrow at the passing of these two lives, there is joy not only in knowing that they both had full and successful lives, but in knowing that they have moved on to eternal life in heaven.
In this post, I recounted some words my dad said to me that changed my perspective on life. As you can see, my dad has made a huge impression on me. Read more about how his wisdom has shaped my life in these two posts: On Being A Bad Teenager and Getting Through Tough Seasons.