Between Christmas and New Year’s, a gathering of ten people gathered to spend time with and to be with a good friend who’s dying. He’s lucid, alert, and, as always, ever engaging, but now all contained in a weakening body.
He’s a priest friend of over forty years to me, and everyone’s together in the living room. Between sharing stories full of laughter and memories, he remains the center of attention, even when the true center of attention is our relationship with him. One story triggers another then silence ensues until the quiet person retells a tale of many years ago that we all remember but have forgotten.
We’re all professionally associated with each other, but this day, this moment, together, our personal association is with this one person. He’s seated comfortably, enjoying his glass of water and absorbing all that is said about him, whether including or concerning him. It’s a living Vigil Service honoring someone who is still living.
After reviving my drink, I see that the chair next to him is open. So I sit closer to him to visit and better hear him. We equally remember and reminisce episodes and escapades back and forth, smiling away as each story is retold. The others in the living room continue their chatter and chatting that you’d expect at a party.
Both of our sharings are slowly replaced with a silence between us. An awkward human moment or a moment of heavenly grace? “Priest to priest,” I think to myself that I ought to say something priestly to break the silence. But, as this wise man taught me, there is a time for silence and a time for speaking, and more often than not, its silence is the most haunting and nourishing. He taught me well. No, that’s wrong. He showed me well.
Can “haunting” and “nourishing” be used in the same sentence? Can those two words be included in one sentence in the miracle we call life? Yes.
Because it’s the union of our wordliness and us listening to the happy going-ons with loving, caring friends carrying on. The colorful noises of those caring friends fulfills more than one lifetime of relationships with this one priestly friend. Between the silence of us two? That’s God’s kingdom, fulfilled.
Books by Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. are available on Amazon.com. Topics include the Catholic religion, spirituality and U.S. culture.
Beautiful. Knew you at QOA in Pewaukee red