Thursday, August 16, 2012

(89) A Eulogy for a Coal Miner and Farmer.......John "Mike" Hager

        As a Eucharistic Minister, I bring Holy Communion to the sick and the shut-ins. After a while, I get attached to them and get to know them. Over time they minister to me.......teaching and even inspiring me. Thus I would like to not only honor Mike Hager, but also share some of the things he can teach us.......especially his courage, his faith, resignation to God's will, and trust in His kind providence. Every life, from the rich and the famous to the common man, has a fascinating story to tell. Mike Hager is no exception and I tried to include a little bit of that.

Given at St. Louis Church August 16, 2012

        As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, I had the opportunity to know Mike Hager in the last three years of his life. It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to him in the Eucharist, i.e. Holy Communion; to pray with him and Rita; and to help him in a little way for his encounter with our Lord in eternity. At first, I actually came for Rita while Mike would also participate in the Communion Service. He liked to talk about sports and I like talking about sports. So I would stay there for a good while and Rita would patiently listen. At that time he seemed to be in robust health, running the family farm, rounding up the cows, driving the tractor, and taking care of Rita. But last year Mike took sick and Rita ended up taking care of Mike in a heroic way. They were so faithful to each other, for better and for example for all of us. In addition their extended family pulled together to help them.

        I was supposed to minister to Mike, but Mike also ministered to me. He knew that his time on earth was growing short, but he faced it with courage and faith, patient resignation to God's will and trust in His kind providence. He had discovered the Catholic Faith through Rita and lived it. Mike loved his family dearly and so enjoyed talking about them. One of his biggest regrets was that he would not be able to see his grandsons play football this Fall, the game that he loved, having himself played for North Gallia High School and the Gallia County Disciples. I would like to think that he'll be watching his grandsons play and that they'll put in that extra effort for Grandpa.

        Mike was hurting and weak, deteriorating rapidly. I shared with him the fact that suffering can be very valuable, meaningful, and fruitful. If accepted in faith with trust in God, suffering can be a wonderful preparation for eternity. Taken in the right way, the inevitable crosses of life can make each one of us a saint. One priest observed: “Those who die of Cancer die like saints” since they have time to prepare. Every canonized saint suffered and even prayed to have more crosses. Many times I would say, “You can reap great fruits with your prayers and by offering your crosses to the Lord as a dynamic prayer for your loved ones, for the Church, and for our Country. God knows how much our country needs prayers. In that way you can be most valuable.” Indeed he was!

        Thank you Mike for serving our Country in the Army combat engineers in Viet Nam. Thank you for all of your hard work in the mines that supplied the coal to the power plants that kept our houses lit.

       Mike was ready and will be praying for us. Thank-you, Mike, for your example and for what you taught us. I'm sure you're having a joyful reunion with your lovely daughter Cathy. Good-by until we're all together again in eternity.

         In conclusion, please permit me to read a beautiful hand written poem that Mike kept from the Bidwell Elementary School, dated 1959 when he was 12 years old.

God didn't promise:
Days without rain;
Laughter without sorrow;
Or sun without rain.
But God did promise:
Strength for the day;
Comfort for the tears
And a light for the way;
Rest from the labor;
Grace for the trials;
Help from above;
Unfailing sympathy;
Undying love.

        In the case of Mike and his beautiful ever faithful wife, God indeed kept that promise. May he rest in everlasting peace. Thank you.

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