A story of someone. He was at weekday Masses, two pews behind me usually. We always shared a smile and sometimes an occasional word. My sister knew him better than I as she lived there for over 30 years and I only two. I should have asked more about him from her. I wondered was he married? Always alone—left immediately after Mass, I guess that is why he chose that last pew.
One day I noticed he was walking with a limp, hanging on to the pew as I was doing then too. It was at a time in my life when I was dealing with symptoms of weakness and extreme fatigue and five Doctors had no clue, after many tests done, as to why. So I asked him after Mass, “why are you walking that way, for I am too—maybe I have the same problem?” His reply—“I have Muscular Dystrophy, and the symptoms are starting to get worse.” I wanted to ask him if he would like for me to pray for him, but knowing that not everyone is receptive to someone praying for them as in “laying on of hands” type prayer; I said instead “I will keep you in my prayers.” That was about 6 months ago.
Father announced a funeral on Tuesday this week, I did not know the name so thought nothing about going to the funeral, especially since I worked that day and we were to head to another funeral Wednesday five hours away. While driving Wednesday, my sister said something about the funeral yesterday being so packed it was standing room only. “Oh, who was the funeral for?”
“Oh you know that guy that always sits in the last pew at weekday Masses. I thought you knew.”
My heart sunk, saddened by his passing and I did not know. “Wait, what did you mean that he chose to end it?”
“His Muscular Dystrophy was so bad he was falling. He had to take care of an Aunt who died of Muscular Dystrophy and I guess he didn’t want his life to end that way.”
The more I learned of his story, the more I saw the cross he bore, the conflict and the struggle that he hid within. Another friend said he was at Saturday morning Mass the day of his death. When she said that, I remembered how I was prompted to go to Mass that morning, but declined as I work 3-11 and enjoyed the thought of sleeping in. But now, the thought that there was one last chance encounter, one last time that maybe the Holy Spirit could have led me as He does, to smile, to hug and then give a very special message—for that is one of His gifts given--to help others when they need to hear a very special Word from God.
But, I didn’t know. Today, during Mass sitting where I usually did, I was given a special gift to have a visit with him. To say I am sorry I wasn’t there for your funeral. Then into my mind came all the other words that we both needed to hear as if the Holy Spirit joined in the conversation. “I understand why you felt this was something you should do, and so does Jesus. I love you, so does Jesus. Forgive me for not being more of a friend. Forgive yourself, too, for the choices you made in your life. Know that God forgives you. We know that it was more out of love for your family that you felt it was best not to be more of a burden for them. We also know that you did not realize just how much a difference you made in our lives. Very few of us do. Go to the arms of God’s love and peace now and know, we now know and we understand. One more thing dear friend—will you please pray for my family, their marriages need a lot of help. And when I see the results of your prayers—I promise the whole world will know what a wonderful soul you are that has taken on a new role in his eternal life. See you at morning Mass, good friend.”
His story has been a very valuable lesson learned, a gift given too, and shared as I encourage others, now you, to take the time to do more then say “Hi, how are you.” Take the time to know their story too, so you will never have to say, “If I only knew.”