I said once that there were a lot of priests out there who don’t deserve the title of “Father”, let alone the once-common term for those ordained men, “the good Father”. My confessor has certainly proved himself well-deserving of that name, as has a few other priests I’d encountered on this life journey.
I just got the news that one of these Fathers is dying. He had cancer for maybe the entire time I’d known him, and now, it’s looking like it’s in its last stages. They expect him to pass away today or tomorrow.
I asked friends to pray for him. My hands were trembling. I just finished a rosary for him; as the news sank in, that’s when tears started pouring out of my eyes. The rosary helped me calm down, praying for him in what could be the hardest nights of his life, and in turn, entrusting these feelings to Someone more reliable. I’m hoping writing this also does that. Today isn’t over yet.
I had another friend, an elderly lady from church, who’d recently passed away. I went to her funeral. I tried to look as respectable as I could with a jacket and ladies’ tie, but I still felt ashamed, coming to her funeral and feeling bad for her death when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts/feelings. Now that I’ve attempted suicide (however clumsily as it was done), the shame is deeper. Here I am, crying over the very idea of this priest dying today or tomorrow, and not even a week ago, I tried to kill myself. At the same time, like at that lady’s funeral, there’s a small part of me that’s happy that I have people I care about this much to be this sad about them.
I mostly knew this priest through a shared acquaintance. He was one of the priests who came on this choir pilgrimage to Italy I once went on with two church choirs. He was very sick, but he had a courageous level of hope about him. I loved his stories, and many people remember his singing voice (and rightly so). He was a very lively sort, just as rightly known for his passionate homilies.
I didn’t talk to him too much about these things I was going through; I was afraid. Knowing him, though, he probably would have been very kind, as he was the few times I did turn to him for counsel. The last I saw him, he was about to move out of state to retire. He was smiling that day, tired, maybe a bit worn, but still those same strong eyes.
He had given me his number, so I was able to say goodbye before he moved away. That was the last I messaged him. After I got this news, though, I did have the thought to call him, but felt unworthy; this feels like a very sacred time for him and his loved ones. I feel too messed up in the head, unclean even, to intrude. He may not get the email I try to send, though. He always had an easier time receiving texts. So I sent him a text. I told him how sad I and all of us who’s heard the news are, how we’re praying for him. I apologized if it was rude of me to text him…though reason tells me that he wouldn’t have personally gave me his number if he didn’t want to hear from me. I kept my distance, too; should be alright. I hope so anyways.
I hope the message makes him smile. I really hope it makes him smile. I wanted to give him a reason to smile, that so many people love him enough to be sad, and to pray for him in his current condition. I don’t know if he’ll even get it; he could be unconscious, or otherwise unable to see it. If he doesn’t, I hope someone conveys those feelings, that reality to him, that he’s loved and admired by many people. This is the kind of stuff I’d been hearing, after all, from the people I’ve told what I tried to do. Seemed only right to at least try.
I hope he’s not in too much pain. I hope he’s peaceful. Maybe a miracle will happen, but even if it doesn’t, I’ve got faith in him, that he’d be okay. I’m still sad though. It’s so sad, for someone who actually was a “good father” for what little I personally knew of him in that role…to maybe be dying soon.
The topic of fathers came up today in counseling. My doctor remarked how hard it is for me to relate to God as Father, having had the kind of father I had. It wasn’t helped either by so many of the other older male figures in my life, my uncle being a prime example. He brought up my confessor, his role in healing me of my experiences with fathers, and I brought up his own role in that as well, he being older than my confessor and I. He laughed a little, though before or after that, he sort of paused and said in a very serious tone, “That’s what I’m supposed to be.”
I’m not sure I understand that…or more accurately, want to understand it, in light of how that’ll make me feel in the face of all those others who were not who they were “supposed” to be. Either way, I’ll definitely still be praying for this priest.
There’re a lot of bad priests in the world, and ones that are more of a “Reverend” than a “Father”. He’s not one of them.