Struggling To Understand…

I’ve been relatively quiet this week as I am deeply troubled. I started a blog post about something or other but simply couldn’t finish it. I enjoy following others bloggers but admit I haven’t done that either.
I’ll establish right off the bat that I’m a practicing Catholic. Normally I don’t write about my religious or political beliefs however being Catholic really isn’t the crux of my angst. I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of a long time parishioner at my very small parish. He was an extremely vital and integral part of our church “community”. Born in Europe, he was multi-talented in that he played piano, organ and was an accomplished illustrator. Originally a geography master after university graduation, he took voice lessons while teaching at a private academy. Those lessons opened the door to his life’s passion ~ opera. He sang tenor in productions throughout Europe and  North America. Later in life he  married an American soprano who was living in London and they often toured in the same productions. They moved to the US about 15 years ago as her parents were aging. He had been briefly married years before and his adult children continue to live in Europe. Sadly, his wife passed away in June after a lengthy illness. A few weeks ago he stopped at the parish during mid-week for something or the other. A parish employee and another person who happened to be present noticed that he looked unwell. He thought it was simply fatigue but admitted to having a severe headache. They convinced him to be driven to the ER at our local albeit small community hospital. It was there that he was diagnosed with an inoperable, invasive and aggressive brain tumor. Several days later he was transferred to a larger hospital in another part of the state. He remained lucid but almost alone until he became comatose and died the first week of July. Fortunately his family were able to fly here and be with him.

What troubles me is that 99.9% of the parish never spoke of his illness. Many either didn’t know or said “I didn’t think to mention it”. This however begs the question, why not? Yes it was a sudden diagnosis that  happened several weeks ago but not once was it ever announced or mentioned in any context.  Anyone who has read my blog knows that I understand HIPAA extremely well and am fully aware of what can and cannot be said. Having said that, it could have been worded in a manner that would not have violated  his privacy nor HIPAA rules. He was genuinely liked and contributed to the parish through his singing, cooking weekly for the Warming Center at the parish hall every winter, and just being a really nice man. As an almost lifelong Catholic I find this extremely troubling. Is it a tradition in this state? Because in my home state of NJ in a large urban church we managed to maintain an environment of caring; we were in essence a community. If a member of our community was ill we knew. If a member passed away without warning, they were remembered during the next Mass. This fine gentleman’s death was written on the parish’s Facebook page; on social media ~ that’s it. In June another member of the parish suddenly died while on vacation and his name has never been mentioned. Not once. He was a lifelong member with the exception of the 20 years he devoted to the military. He met his wife at  church. They were married there. Yet it’s almost like offhanded “Here today, gone tomorrow” or “Out of sight, out of mind”. Is this what we’ve become? Cavalier and self-absorbed? This is NOT indicative of the religion I have practiced for most of my adult years, the religion I chose to raise my children in including parochial schools from K-12.

I am the product of an extremely abusive childhood yet have refused to allow it to define me. For some reason I was spared permanent physical disfigurement or worse at the hands of the very people who were supposed to take care of me. I’ve always believed, long before I embraced any particular doctrine, that a higher power intervened and saved me. I accept that I am often a “hot mess”,  rife with PTSD and its many triggers. But I focus on doing the best I can. Every day I make an effort to do or say something kind or give something up.  These little sacrifices keep me grounded. People matter, their lives are of value yet somehow that seems to be overlooked in of all places a small church in which they actively participated. Therefore I struggle with reconciling behaviors that indicate a true lack of compassion or charity. I find this extremely troubling and it’s the antithesis of everything I believe in. I can’t even say it’s the anthesis of Catholic dogma but rather a sad indictment of the inherent sense of decency.

Our priest recently left after requesting to be relieved of his duties. When he arrived two years ago neither his style of celebrating Mass nor his interactions with parishioners was well received. To be blunt, they didn’t like him which I thought was sad. For some reason I assumed he’d asked to be relieved of the parish because of health reasons or family matters. In hindsight however I have to wonder…

3 thoughts on “Struggling To Understand…

  1. Sorry to hear it’s been a difficult week. I hope Sasha is feeling better.
    Church attitudes are funny things…maybe they felt remembering the man in Mass was too “old school’ and they thought they’d be all 21st century by using Facebook. A simple prayer wouldn’t have violated anything and would have shown that the community cared.
    In times like this, I do feel that the Church has a role to play, instilling moral guidelines, caring etc. and I’m sorry that yours made you feel bad…
    However, you yourself remembered this man with compassion in your post..and I think that was kind, a proper demonstration of Church ethos.

  2. its sad when a vital and influential life leaves us and we are left empty with no opportunity to say goodbye or even hold hands before the passing. I totally feel your emptiness and sorrow. And that he was causally forgotten makes me heavy with sadness too though i am miles away from your heartache. We live in such a temporary space and make the material things so important yet the relationships are what really matter, i think you are on the right track and have given him the sending off her deserves here, his life chronicled and applauded. this was a beautiful honest and sweet post all in one, i am glad you shared it with all of us. be comforted in your pain that you have such deep compassion and love even after all the suffering you have had endured in childhood and youth. be blessed always.

  3. What a beautiful response! Thank you so much. I only knew this richly talented gentleman for (2) years but he was an absolute delight. Always cheery with a smile on his face, comforting others even when his heart was surely heavy because of his wife’s dire prognosis. During terrible snowstorms he managed to drive his special food item to the Warming Center where others would have said “Nope, road’s too bad”. So that he wasn’t acknowledged by the church he embraced truly bothers me but after writing about it I feel some relief, just as I did when I wrote of my friend’s suicide. Writing is cathartic. I fully intended to delve deeper into my own past months ago but when my dog incurred one medical issue after another it sort of took over. I joke that I need a new laptop just for all of her information.
    Again, thank you for reading and your sweet words…

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