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Funeral Mass for Dan Jinguji
February 15, 2021

     Three weeks have now passed since we got the shocking news of Dan’s death and we are still in shock, still devastated, still in disbelief. It’s so hard to think of Dan as anything but fully alive, here in our midst, blessing us with his smile, warming us with his love, and leading us in prayer with that remarkable voice of his.

       Tom, Theresa, Beth, my heart goes out to you in your great loss. Also to each of Dan’s beloved nieces and nephews.  Death is difficult under any circumstances, but when it come as suddenly and tragically as it did for Dan, the pain is deep and the sense of loss beyond words. I thank God for the Christian faith that is so deep in you, the faith that allows you, in the midst of your grief, to draw comfort and reassurance in knowing that Dan, who was life itself when he was here with us, is even more alive now as he shares in Christ’s victory over death. Alive Dan surely is, alive with God!

      I took time to read through the avalanche of Facebook postings that followed the word of Dan’s death. All I could think of was how universally loved Dan was - loved and admired. People ran out of superlatives in describing their love for him and all the ways he touched their lives. One after another, they talked about his kindness, his warmth, his boundless energy, his joy, his enthusiasm.  Many told how Dan was the very first person they met at St. James and how it was his warm welcome and winning smile that broke the ice for them at once and made them feel right at home. And, of course, they also spoked about Dan’s unique and amazing voice that echoed in every reach and recess of this Cathedral, and they commented, too, on what a deeply prayerful presence he brought to Cathedral liturgies. “Dan always helped me to pray,” is the way one person put it.

      I remember well my first meeting with Dan. My hair was dark then (although not nearly as dark as Dan’s!) and Dan, who never lost his youthfulness, was even more youthful then. As he did for so many, he warmly welcomed me to the Cathedral and offered to be of help in any way he could. It was an offer that he delivered on many a time. I also remember a particular Mass on a Sunday in July of 1988, my first one here. I was a just short of terrified, to be honest. Dan was the cantor, and he made the pre-Mass announcement. He ended up by saying, “the presider for this Mass is our pastor, Father Michael Ryan.” Well, those words, “our pastor” – were music to my ears. I had long wanted to be a pastor and Dan’s words made it all very real for me. Afterwards, he shared with me that he had been told not to announce the presider by name any more. Why, I wasn’t sure, but, being the new kid on the block and not wanting to step on any toes, I let it go. But I did miss hearing Dan say those words.

      At this point, I can hear Dan saying to me, “goodness, enough with the eulogy. Time to get on with the homily.” (I’m sure you recognize “goodness” as a vintage Dan Jinguji expression - the strongest ‘expletive’ I ever heard him use, And, you know, it’s also an expression that describes Dan quite nicely!). But Dan would be right: this is supposed to be a homily, not a eulogy. It’s supposed to open up the scriptures. But what happens when the scriptures closely resonate with and reflect the life of the deceased person? That’s when the line between eulogy and homily gets blurred. And it’s definitely the case with Dan. Those readings came to life in his life.

      I don’t too often choose that reading from the Book of Daniel for a funeral. Its apocalyptic imagery is kind of alarming, but it only seemed right, for Dan’s funeral, to read from the Book of Daniel, and the words that spoke of God’s elect whose names are “found written in the book of life” were right on the mark. And so were these words: “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who instruct the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”  In one way or another, Dan spent most of his life “instructing the many.” He was a born teacher: he loved to teach and he was good at it.  Really good at it. Whether he was teaching computer science at the university level, or linguistics, or some arcane aspect of music theory, or just walking the path toward faith with candidates in RCIA, Dan was the perfect teacher - gently and patiently opening new vistas to his understudies, captivating them with new perspectives, leading them to new insights and discoveries.

      “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who instruct the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”  By any measure you apply, Dan Jinguji was a star. He achieved stardom early in his too short life.  But I think I can say with confidence that the only stardom Dan really cared about was the stardom that is now his as he takes his place among the blessed where he will shine forever from his place with God. Go out and study the stars some night. I’m betting that the heavens will be a little brighter now, thanks to a new star that has taken his place in the firmament.

      In the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, we heard a long list of virtues that befit a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul likens them to articles of clothing which a Christian is to put on and wear. And what are those garments? Things like “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and a forgiving spirit.” And there is one more – one that is the most important of all: “over all these garments, put on love which is the bond of perfection.”  Now, I ask you, which of those garments didn’t Dan Jinguji put on? Put on, and wear consistently and convincingly? In reflecting back on all the Facebook postings, it struck me that those words from Colossians are the very words that came up time and again. It was as if the people who posted their thoughts had just read that passage. They hadn’t of course; all they had done was think about Dan – which was another way of reading those verses from Colossians.

      And the reading continued: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hers to God.” Now, again I ask you again, does Dan come alive in those words or not? I do believe that at the heart of Dan’s simple goodness was the “word of Christ” that took root in him.’  And Dan certainly did “teach and admonish us” – and stir and inspire us, too - by the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” he sang so beautifully and which even now echo up in the vaults of this Cathedral he loved so much. If you listen carefully you will hear them even now.

      I chose the reading from Luke’s gospel because it spoke so strongly of Christian service. Dan knew well that the central words from that passage are forever enshrined above the altar of this Cathedral: “I am in your midst as one who serves.” They are part of Luke’s telling of the story of the Last Supper when the disciples of Jesus showed how very human they were by arguing among themselves about who among them was the most important.  Jesus was gentle with them, but direct.  It’s not about being important, he told them, it’s not about power, and it’s not about lording it over anyone. That’s for the rest of the world to worry about. For you, it’s about service, he told them – humble service.  “I am in your midst as one who serves,” he said.  Those words may be inscribed high above the altar of this Cathedral but they were also inscribed in the very soul of Dan Jinguji.  It’s who he was and it’s what he did. He served, served humbly, served faithfully, served in a whole lot of ways, and in doing so, he changed a whole lot of lives, mine included.

      Dear Dan, we love you, we miss you, and we thank you for being such a gift to us – to your family, your friends, your fellow parishioners here at St. James and at Sacred Heart in Pullman, too. We thank you for singing your song so beautifully – the song that was your life. We look forward to hearing it again and to singing it again with you in the company of saints and angels in the presence of the living God!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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