And so it begins…
But it only begins because something has ended. Though the title of this, my first personal blog, might seem quirky or even pretentious, it’s not to me. For in the loss of anything, we are left with having to do something, even if that something is nothing though that’s not my intent you will see. Today, because of a tragedy, I’m choosing to do something, even as insignificant as it might be (I agree). I hope that if you have ventured to read this far that you might too. For the loss was great, the response will need to be as much.
Now to bring these thoughts swirling around my head to an actual point, I must share that yesterday evening, an old friend of mine was taken from us, far too young for my liking. He was the husband of a sweet young woman from Indiana, the father of six gorgeous young children, and the spiritual father to many, only just recently ordained.
He had much to do. He had much to write in the coming age of his golden years and I would be near the front of the line to read his conclusions. Or so I thought.
I’m speaking of the newly departed servant of God Fr. Matthew Baker. I will not imply that we were best friends, we were not. I will not try to tell his story, others are far better at such things than I and have already done so most worthily, both here and here. I am merely here to pay him homage because we were friends, and also to do something in response to that fact.
I’d like to think we were friends from the time we met though our circumstances sometimes tested that friendship, or should I say my circumstances sometimes tested our friendship. We schooled together for about two years. We shared two different sides of the same house and could hear each other through our paper thin walls. He and I sat on my front porch swing for long hours discussing things above our pay grade while he rolled his own cigarettes. When his first son Isaac was born, we found him to be precocious and playful and we played much on our living room floors. I loved those years and recall them easily and fondly. We even had a favorite Mexican Restaurant which we ate together at a couple of times with our wives and even with their new son Isaac.
But at the end of one summer, in particular, Fr. Matthew rightfully grew restless. What he both wanted and needed, that particular environment could not provide, and I am o.k. with that now. But I wasn’t then. I didn’t want him to leave, time had made us friends, even if I was a lousy one.
But the years taught me that he needed something that could only be found elsewhere. I’m glad he found it, and he did find it, as brief as “it” may have been.
Our friendship was rekindled some years back, but due to circumstances of geography, it never progressed beyond phone calls. I figured that would have to suffice until an opportunity might bring us together again for old talks. It never did.
How I looked forward to reading what he was learning for us. How I selfishly desired for him to do the reading I couldn’t or wouldn’t do so that he could pull it all together for me, make sense of it for me. That was one of the gifts God gave him and I longed for him to use those gifts. But in that, I am certain that I am just one of many.
So today I write because he will no longer be able to write. I don’t like this cold fact. The world is not a better place because Fr. Matthew can no longer write and no longer share. It is not better because he can no longer give so freely of his time and freely of his ear, in fact, it feels worse. But he and I both know we can’t allow things to stay this way. For a sorrow can never be a place of shelter within our own earthly lives. So it’s time to get moving. It’s time for me and others to pick up the slack. Now there are no guarantees that anything I write will ever be of any help to anyone, but today, because of Fr. Matthew’s unintentional prompting (at least I think it’s unintentional), I’ll take that chance. I’ll make a try.
For in truth, when a good life ends, there is a void. Death does that. Death is terrible, and I will not pretend to like it. I will weep as my God wept at Lazarus’s tomb, for I am certain death was not a part of the original design. But it is part of the fabric now, and only Christ has the tools to mend it. So I will not be without hope, and neither will I slumber, at least not today.
I started this blog well over a year ago, and I had yet to write and post one word, until today. It just sat there in the blogosphere, unused. Today, I vow to try to do better. I will try to write more today, partly because he can’t. I am not bold enough or stupid enough to believe I can ever or will ever write anything with the depth he obtained and was still in the process of obtaining. But I will try to be a brick in the great edifice of the Faith (pun intended), or at the very least, a bit of mortar.
For I believe that both Fr. Matthew and I (and others like us) shared something then which we still share now, our love for God and His Holy Gospel. Our shared belief that Jesus Christ is real and concrete and subsequently, that we are all made in the image of God, seemed to be enough to drive us foolishly to believe that we should do something grand about it. Foolish because we can’t on our own, but brilliant because He can, and He might even want to use us to do it. Admittedly, my part in doing something about these beliefs and their consequence seems much smaller than Fr. Matthew’s, but I’ll do my part anyway. I’ll try to be the mortar for the great writers already out there today, who already surpass even the best I could ever give on any given day of their choosing. But there must be room for someone small like me, so I’ll do my part, and I will do it at your prompting, no matter how unintentional the push may be.
Brother, I have remembered the name of you and your family from the very first day of my ordination. Rest assured those prayers will not cease. Though now I will now have to move your name from the living column to the departed. To be clear, I am none to happy about this, but there is some joy in saying your name along great priests who mean a lot to me right beside your name. Your beloved family will remain in my prayers with the other Christian militant.
So thank you brother for your time, for your gifts, and for your devotion to the thing we shared most. May your memory be eternal and may you be found worthy of blessedness. Remember me in your prayers, I will need them if I am to be of any use here. And pray to the Lord that I might write even just a few words which reveal the truth of our God to those who desire to know Him, to those looking to love Him, and even to those who are not. I’ll start today because of you. In fact, I just did, and I thank you for that nudge.
And so it goes…