Tag: Priest

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

Image thanks to pixabay.com – https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-christmas-candles-880323/

Jealous of the Angels tonight…

These past two months several good people at my former church have passed. This week, I heard that the mother of one of the Priests had passed. She had suffered with MS for many years and in the end she had pancreatic cancer as well. I would not say I knew her well but she made a great impression on me the times I met her. She was kind and had a lot of selfless energy. She was an artist and prayed through her painting too.

Today, I learnt that an elderly Priest with whom I was at one time in close contact, is right at the end of his life. He is in a coma and it is likely to be a matter of a day or hours now. I’m asking that I may be able to go to pray with him and say goodbye tomorrow morning, if he is still with us. He is a dear friend though circumstances have meant that we have not so often spoken in the last year or so. I am very upset with myself that a lot of these circumstances I should have changed and didn’t and in my illness and fear I allowed or even set distance from this dear friend. I really care for him and he has been so kind to me and led me on in my faith. I have been useless and I don’t know if he knows how much he means and did for me. But soon he will, in heaven.

These two people both particularly affected me through their calm hope and the way they truly lived, really present and  experiencing the joys, costs, pains, losses, weaknesses, hopes and needs of every day. The experience was raw and awful and scary sometimes, especially in their illness. They didn’t stop being present or deny the feeling. They didn’t deny or worry about their imperfections or give up because of them.  They accepted their need for help, mercy and love. They gave it abundantly to others around them. Their feelings and their reality, and others’, was all part of what I’d describe as their constant prayer and thanksgiving. They didn’t deny or push down others’ feelings or tell them to think positive or that they should feel another way instead or that certain feelings are sinful or have to be overcome. They showed me that God is right here, right now. Not when we’re pure or perfect or when we’ve mastered and suppressed everything we fear about ourselves or when we’ve assured ourselves we’ve punished ourselves enough or atoned enough. God is here, with us and within us, in this scary, hurting, angry, overwhelming feeling, in our error, even in our failing and sin, just as much as in our joy, success and delight. I still get scared very often and still take the instinctive way of running, hiding, hurting myself. I still spiral down in very dark places. But what these two friends taught me is one of the very few things I can cling onto.

I miss them very much already. Part of it It feels like this.

Losing them has hit hard. Also, some conversations I’ve had this week, have hit me with some things I have to change. I can’t stop crying tonight. Therapy tomorrow will be…unstable I think. The very vulnerable child part of me is integrating with me and her emotions are coming out as mine, not just in the escape world. This will be scary in therapy group but I know it needs to be.

Ginny xxx

“Jealous of the Angels”, by Jenn Bostic. With thanks to Lite Brite for the video.