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…