When I was 9 years old in 1954, the Pastor asked me to become an altar boy. Those were Latin mass days. At mass, I barely understood a word that was said. The most interesting thing about the experience was serving at funerals. There were six black gigantic candle sticks put out beside the coffin. I had never stood so close beside a casket before.

In the beginning I was nervous being close to a dead person. The most dramatic part of the funeral mass for me was the singing of the “Dies Irae.” I had no idea what it meant, but the tone of dread was palpable.

Of course, in those days there was no education for young impressionable naïve altar boys, about the psychological effects of serving in this, what seemed like “spooky” ritual.One day the altar boy serving with me fainted while we were standing beside the casket.

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