Today, I was honored to attend a heartwarming memorial service in a cozy and expansive Catholic church nestled in a strikingly beautiful part of upstate New York. It all happened on a perfectly sad, rainy spring day where the trees nevertheless exuded their own light, and Tom Croghan’s life was remembered.
The very brief gathering was led by a very straightforward man, Tom’s brother, Father John. He explained that Tom was “not a very religious person,” and so would be aggravated with anything that was too religious or too formal. So the Passing of the Peace was replaced with a friendly ‘hello’, and Fr. John offered friendly-but-unfancy instructions to the parishioners like, “sit down for a minute, will you?” Tom’s sisters, the Sisters, offered a reading and a prayer, and the sermonic commentary on Matthew 25:31-40 was delivered as John leaned on one elbow. In total, the sermon was barely longer than its two-word thesis: “just love”. And Tom’s son, my friend Mike Croghan, offered a touching eulogy that was both a warm tribute to a life well-lived and a gentle invitation to that very kind of life.
So that, in this way, and on this day, a celebration of a life was enjoined by a big family surrounded by many friends. But from where I was sitting, both the service and the life seemed intensely religious (sorry, Tom). Religious, that is, if God is more concerned about how we love and serve than in what we give assent to and where we sit on Sunday morning. Or at least that’s what his brother (the Father) and his sisters (the Sisters), and the rest of his siblings, and his wife and sons, and all the rest of his family and friends, and Jesus, seemed to think about the matter.
Rest in Peace, Tom Croghan. And thanks for your sons.