As I mentioned in my last post, one of the priests at my church recently passed away.
I guess I was fine until the funeral Mass because that’s when it sunk in. He’s gone. He won’t be walking around the church and clicking his heels or asking everyone to say “Amen!” at the end of the homily. He won’t be buying donuts or filling the candy jar in the rectory. He won’t mispronounce my name but make it sound beautiful anyway by rolling the R. He won’t laugh off the crying babies in the middle of Mass and tell the congregation that they’re letting him know it’s time to stop talking. He won’t smile down at me with the clearest and most joyful blue eyes you’ve ever seen. He won’t be around to never get frustrated with anyone. He won’t call anyone “dear heart.” He won’t listen to political rants from our other priest in the morning. He won’t hear confessions.
But it’s not over.
This is not the end.
And these tears will be forgotten when an immense joy takes their place.
The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. – Romans 8:18
He lived Christ’s love.
He was so joyful. I never saw him get frustrated or angry. That wasn’t him.
And I guess I never thought about what he had gone through before I met him about thirteen years ago. But I learned yesterday that he had three brothers – two of whom had died in World War II. One died on a sinking ship and the other was killed. The third died in 2013 of cancer. Father Bratus was so devoted and cared so much for his brother.
This holy man felt pain. But that didn’t bring him down. And I need to live his example. I need to be selfless and generous like him.
You know, I feel very peaceful about all this though.
Obviously, it’s like something important is missing and the parish will never be the same, but Father was dying from liver and pancreatic cancer. And he’s in a better place. He’s not in pain, he’s not grieving; he’s clicking his heels and singing as loud as he can to bring joy to God and I know he’s succeeding.
Take courage, dear heart.
This is not the end.
End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings