Saturday, January 22, 2011

"You Know not the Hour..."

"You know not the hour...." These words of Jesus were spoken in relation to His Second Coming, but they can also apply to the hour of our passing from this life to the next. I thought of that this week because of Bob.

Bob was my step-brother-in-law. After my mother died the year after my ordination my father remarried. In fact, I presided at his wedding. One of the gifts of a priestly vocation is to be able to celebrate in a sacramental way the weddings, baptisms, and funerals in one's family. It's unusual, though, to preside at the wedding of one's own father. As a result of it, I've become part of another family and, though my father has since died, I remain a part of it.

Last weekend I got a call from Dan, one of my step-brothers. He informed me of Bob's death. I'd last seen him on New Year's Day when my step-family gathered for its annual Christmas celebration. Bob was 75 and was on his way to a health club to work out. According to witnesses, he put on the emergency flashers of his car and began pulling to the side of the road. Before he could finish, his car zoomed ahead out of control, took out several mailboxes, went through a culvert and hit a tree. Bob was dead on the scene. He must have felt the heart attack coming and tried to pull over.

I always enjoyed Bob. He had a beautiful combination of seriousness and humor. We played golf together with Dan and his son once a year. The emails I'd get periodically from Bob were either humorous, patriotic, political, or religious.

At his funeral on Wednesday, I talked about the pain of unexpected death. Though Bob went the way he'd hoped--suddenly and without a lingering illness--it's hard on family and friends who don't have the chance to say "good-bye." His family and many friends showed up at the wake and funeral Mass to do so, but it's not the same. One could say that his life was his farewell. I sensed that he was ready. He'd lived his life well. The love of Rita, his wife of almost 55 years; the love of his two daughters, their husbands, and children; the love of so many other relatives and friends--that love spoke of his love for them. While we didn't get the chance to say "good-bye" during his earthly life, Bob's love for us was his "good-bye." I think he left with no regrets and no unfinished business.

It strikes me: that's the way to live, since we know not the hour.

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