Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My father, who studied the Kabbalah,  would have appreciated all the numeric coincidences connected to his date of death. First, the 30-day period after death is the fixed time for mourning in the Jewish tradition.  Thirty days after his death happened to be his 75th birthday, and also the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, and finally the Winter Solstice.

In Eastern Christianity, the soul is said to wander the world for 40 days after death, so there is a traditional service at the end of 40 days to mark the final passage to the afterlife.  For my father, that date fell on New Year's Eve.  So the whole world celebrated his passage.

Finally, something not quite as neat as those:  my father was 25 when I was born, I am 50 and he was 75 this year - so we have a rough-edged set of thirds marking our lives together and apart.

I seem to be the only one of my siblings who shares my father's interest in religious spirituality or mysticism.  We both of us took up religious study for pure personal enrichment.  I began a program of study of Eastern Christianity with his encouragement and support in my late 40's, and we enjoyed discussing the shared roots of modern religions, particularly in the liturgy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Father Tony, Rest in Joy

I say the rosary during my drive to work every day, and on Tuesdays I offer it for clergy and religious. Tuesdays are the Sorrowful Mysteries: Gethsemane, the Trial and Scourging, the Crown of Thorns, Carrying the Cross, and Jesus' Death. When I can, I reflect on specific people or groups with each mystery; seminarians and novices on the first, diocesan priests on the second, bishops and abbots and abbesses and such on the third, any and all who are dealing with daily life on the fourth, and those I've known who have died on the last.

All this to explain why today I thought of Father Tony. He died last year, unexpectedly (to me). He had been our Parochial Vicar for a year or two, before being assigned Pastor of a neighboring parish. I thought of him often, included in the above-mentioned rosary.  I remember he always reflected tremendous joy as he said Mass.  I sometimes imagine priests facing the life-sized cross and Jesus on it; what would they do if the statue were alive and they could receive His body? Some would take Him in their arms and weep, some would hold him in deep earnest prayer.  Father Tony, I always thought, would open his own arms wide with joy in the presence of his Savior and Lord, and I am certain He would return the embrace.

I am certain Father Tony's joy was real, and was in some way the "real" part of him. During the rosary before the funeral, I stood before the casket looking at his body, lying in repose, eyes closed and face smooth, and I thought it wasn't the real Father Tony, because the light of that joy was not shining out of him.

I wish I had gone to visit him, or sent a letter or even a card.  I miss him.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


My father died Wednesday morning, November 21, 2012.  Everyone said, "It was so fortunate you and [my oldest brother] were able to come out when you did!" When I booked the trip to see him, I just knew I was done waiting for an ideal time or worrying about getting a cheap fare. I flew in on Tuesday, went home on Saturday, and he died the next Wednesday.

I had a few very intense days there. I had that one last personal conversation with him, and the night before I left my three brothers and I had an incredible few hours with him, completely lucid, trying to play a particular YouTube recording.  He wanted to share it with us because it made him happy.  We finally succeeded by a group effort, with one monitor on the bed table, one brother on the wireless laptop, and another with the wireless mouse and a second monitor, all talking at once and somehow managing to locate and play the correct video:  The Features: Whatever Gets You By. The song in question is the first 2 minutes, he wasn't interested in the second song. But I rather like the way the heavy guitar lead in to the second song wraps up the light bounciness of the first song.

I sat in a chair close to the foot of the bed, reading a book while playing footsie with my dad. I'd poke the sole of his foot, he'd push back, while we each sat paying attention to other things.

When he began to tire, he called our attention back to the time, and mentioned that I had a flight to catch in the morning. I said it was just like a family gathering, including the classic "sending the youngest to bed first," except in my case I'm the second oldest, so it was clearly a case of sending the shortest.  We all laughed, with a little too much energy, and the party broke up.  Dad felt great, just tired, but said we should definitely all do this again soon.

I left the next morning early.  From what I hear he never really woke up after that.  And as I said, he died the next Wednesday.

It was a wonderful deathbed.