There’s a statue of St. Francis of Assisi outside Ascension Church, where Kathy Garrigan was memorialized Friday. The caption underneath reads, “Preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words.”
The Rev. Larry McNally may have been thinking of that quote when he praised Kathy Garrigan’s life before an overflow crowd inside the church. It was an apt description of Garrigan’s attitude in her too-brief life. Garrigan, McNally said, gave more than lip service to the principles of her faith and lived out those principles, which urged her to be of service to others.
Friday morning upwards of 1,000 people crowded into every available space at Ascension to honor Garrigan. For a full hour, people stood patiently in a double line that extended out the church doors and down to the corner of East Avenue and west on Van Buren Street. Each took a rose from baskets, signed one of two memorial books in the foyer, then continued on inside.
For that entire hour Tom and Marian Garrigan greeted mourners, one after another, with hugs, kisses, smiles and brief comments. At times it was they who looked to be comforting others in their grief.
Through it all the church was not so much a place of worship as a huge, yet intimate and solemn, community hall.
Looking out over the assemblage, McNally noted that it was the largest gathering he’d witnessed in his 3½ years at the church.
“This is an Easter [sized] crowd,” he told the mourners. “And this is Kathy’s Easter, her spiritual resurrection.”
“Your presence,” he added, “speaks volumes about who Kathy was as a person.”
Life, McNally said, was God’s gift to people. What people did with their life, he said, was their gift back to God. Again looking over the crowd, he said, “Look what she gave back.”
McNally elicited a welcome bit of laughter when he noted that he knew Kathy not just as an Ascension parishioner, but as a “frequent patron of Molly Malone’s” in Forest Park, where Garrigan worked as a server for three summers.
“Thank God I’m a firm believer in the 20 percent tip,” he said, noting that Garrigan wouldn’t have let him hear the end of it if he wasn’t.
Garrigan’s relative Bill Klaus quoted from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-12, “There is a time for every matter under heaven.” But it was clear looking at the faces of many in the church that they were struggling to understand how it could have been Kathy’s time to leave, struggling to accept that it could be so.
McNally addressed that struggle when he related the parable of the villager who had the same answer every time something happened to him, be it good or bad.
Asked to explain why it happened, the man would reply, “Only God knows.”
There is no explanation of why Kathy Garrigan left her loved ones so soon, McNally suggested. “Only God knows.”
“What is going to get us through this tragedy is the three gifts,” he said. “The gifts of faith, of hope and of love.”
And perhaps gratitude. One by one Kathy Garrigan’s young relatives came up and asked for blessings on those who had assisted the family in their time of need. Gene and Sandra Ralston, whose sonar found Kathy, the Seth Foundation, who also provided sonar services. The Tanana Chiefs Conference in Alaska. All the many people who volunteered in the search. The hundreds of people who donated money to help pay for the search. And for Kathy’s AmeriCorps friends Travis Alexander and Lisa Lomando.
Their was gratitude as well for another gift that arrived Thursday night, when Kathy Garrigan’s nephew, Thomas Garrigan McNeilly, was born.