Bury the dead/Pray for the living and the dead: Barb Nabours connects with those grieving loss

Barb Nabours still feels keenly the loss of her parents, but she and her team reach out to the bereaved with simple acts of kindness. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Barb Nabours still feels keenly the loss of her parents, but she and her team reach out to the bereaved with simple acts of kindness. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
Practical ways to bury the dead
  • Attend funerals of those with few relatives or friends
  • Visit the cemetery with your children
  • Send condolence cards
  • Call a grieving person to offer support
  • Pray for the dead and bereaved
  • Offer to bring a meal

When Barb Nabours, a member of San Francisco de Asís Parish in Flagstaff, lost both her parents in a span of three short weeks, the outpouring of compassion she and her family received was a source of great consolation.

Two years later, that’s exactly what drew her to Mission of Love, a new bereavement ministry at the parish spearheaded by Dcn. Doug Rade.

“I’m involved because I lost both my parents two years ago in just unbelievable circumstances and got a lot of support from different people in the Church,” Nabours said.

Her father, who suffered from dementia, was about an hour into surgery for a broken hip when her mother announced that she wasn’t feeling well. Nabours walked her over to the hospital’s emergency room as a precaution. Doctors there chalked the elderly woman’s symptoms up to the trauma of having a beloved spouse under the knife, but three hours later, she was gone. Meanwhile, Nabours’ father was still in surgery.

“It was shocking. My mother was the strong one,” Nabours said. “We had the last rites for my father because he wasn’t supposed to survive.” After it was all over and both parents were gone, a fog descended. “There were days I would go to work and just put my head down and cry,” Nabours said.

Fr. Greg Schlarb, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale and a good friend of her parents, offered considerable support, as did other Catholic friends throughout the diocese, and it made all the difference in the world. Those simple acts of kindness when others are experiencing the loss of a loved one are what Mission of Love is all about, Nabours added.

The parish secretary alerts one of the team leaders that a parishioner has died and then he or she reaches out with a phone call, offering to bring a meal. They follow up later with a condolence card that includes their phone number. Fr. Pat Mowrer, pastor of San Francisco de Asís, follows up with a call a few weeks later. The team meets once a month to review their interactions with families.

“The universal comment is that they were so touched that somebody called, whether they wanted a meal or not,” Nabours said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of somebody’s life. I’m never afraid to talk to somebody, to ask them how they’re doing.”

Most of the people on the team are no strangers to the debilitating effects of grief, she said. They understand how important it is just to be there for someone.

Nabours emphasized that the work of mercy is definitely a team effort and those who work alongside her are touched by the simple act of being there to comfort someone who is grieving.

“One of the things that I am amazed at is how much the people on the team get out of going,” Nabours said. They ask grieving families if they can pray with them or if they can serve in any way. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it’s no. “But it’s more the connection,” Nabours said. “Just knowing that people cared.”