Monday, November 11, 2013

A Simple Man

On Monday, I was supposed to be in court in Maryland to testify in a case brought against one of my supervisees in that area. On Monday, I was also supposed to attend the funeral of a friend who died unexpectedly, leaving all of us who knew him in shock. I talked to our organization's lawyer, and he was able to convince the judge to let me testify first thing Tuesday morning, so I was able to attend the funeral AND testify. Of course, my Monday night sleep took place exclusively on the red-eye from Los Angeles to Dulles International Airport.

There were several things I remembered, we all remembered, about my friend, Jack. The most important was that he was a simple man.

Earlier this year, he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary. He and Ruby did not have much money, so celebrating the wedding anniversary in style was out of the question. Instead, they came to the Bible Studies group that he leads, the meeting of which that week fell on their anniversary. Knowing about the anniversary, I brought Middle Eastern food, which Jack loved, and others brought drinks and desserts. Jack was surprised and pleased -- even more so when I serendipitously ran into Fr. Ed, who had been working late, and he came by to join in the celebration.

Jack affected many others with his simplicity. A retired engineer, he hobbied in history. The level of his knowledge brought learning to all of his group, including those well versed in Biblical studies, like Sr. Maria, and those new to Biblical studies, like me.

Jack was the one I often went to when I ran into "oddities" within the church or among church members, such as the situation with the secular Franciscans that I discussed on my Modern Mysticism blog some time ago (see Tasked). Jack was also the only other lost lamb I had ever met personally who had, like me, experienced a hierophany that brought him, also kicking and screaming, back into the flock. (For those who have not yet read the story of what happened to me, you can find it on my Clan of Mahlou blog: My Conversion Story.)

In addition to the Bible Studies teaching and studying, Jack spent most of his time taking care of Ruby, who has many physical problems, including being restricted to a wheelchair much of the time. Jack never complained. He loved taking care of Ruby. He also had a child who was accidentally shot by a neighbor's child. Jack's son lived, and he never took anyone to court. "It was an accident," he said. Jack's granddaughter was killed in an car accident three years ago. Jack did not bewail his fate. "It was an accident," he once again said. He trusted God, and he knew that some things are, indeed, accidents.

Jack had one wish, not a strong one, but a wish nonetheless. He wanted to go to Jordan to see all those historical places he had studied. I planned to take him there, but he quietly slipped away in his sleep before we could make that wish come true. Somehow, I think Jack would simply say, "It was not meant to be," with full acceptance of the lot life offered him.

Jack was the epitome of humility. His life served as an example to all of us in his class. In Bible Study, he speak with a soft voice such that one had to be quiet and listen attentively. Somehow, it gave his words greater weight.

Jack's funeral was also simple, followed by a reception pieced together by the nuns in our local convent and some of us parishioners. Two priests celebrated the Mass at Old Mission: Fr. Ed, the pastor here, and Fr. Phillip, who came down from the St. Francis Retreat Center. (I say "came down" because the retreat center sits on a hill on the edge of town.)

I was honored to be able to write and read the prayers of the faithful to a full church. Simple people seem to gather more friends than do more complicated types. As I passed back to my pew, Ruby whispered to me how much she liked the prayers, so I handed her the sheet from which I had read the following, which represent a couple of the intentions.
That our friend Ruby, buoyed by gratitude for 50 joyful years together with Jack, be blessed with renewed vigor and self-confidence and pass through this valley with increased faith, hope, and love.

That Jack’s entire family be comforted in its grief and find consolation and peace of mind through today’s Mass, the support of friends in the weeks to come, and the influence of the same deep and abiding faith so frequently expressed by Jack.

In keeping with Jack’s personal example of humility and love, that all people put aside their personal grievances, anger, and prejudices in order to help others and serve God. We pray to the Lord.
Jack was Ruby's ever-present human angel in life. He will be her ever-more-present heavenly angel in death. With simple people, you can count on things simply to continue.

(Note: I have no pictures of Jack or of his funeral. I have only my memories. So, I selected a picture of a simple bouquet of flowers from the Internet. It seemed appropriate.)