Lent – Monday Holy Week

The week.

The march to inevitability. Facing death. Wondering what’s beyond.

If it marks the end – a nothingness beyond – I would imagine that life would be meaningless. Yes, you could say you accomplished a lot, but for what? So that others get their turn to do the same thing? And for what?

I have to believe in meaning, in reason, in purpose. I think that means there is something beyond.

I believe that is when we find out – what God is. Who God is.

With that belief, the journey toward that inevitable destination can be filled with joy, filled with hope, filled with generosity.

Dick Campbell – another small part of my life

An old neighbor and good friend of my parents, Dick Campbell, passed away on Jan 31 of this year. I played with several of his kids, worked with one of them, enjoyed pb and j sandwiches at their house, played basketball – they had the first backyard court I had ever seen – and was exposed to Mr. Campbell’s joyful sense of mischievousness and mirth.

I’ll always remember his deep, warm voice. And before there was any hint of a Homer Simpson, I learned about ‘pull my finger.’ He was fun, full of laughter, and always had a mental puzzle ready to try on the unsuspecting. He tripped me up once.

Mr. Campbell

As I’ve spent time reflecting on friends and neighbors and loved ones who’ve died, I’ve considered how each has affected my life, and how in some small way a part of them remains with me, remains in me. This morning I wondered, “Is not each of us a melting pot?” We are touched by so many people, influenced in tiny ways that may be imperceptible to others, that I think we become greater than the sum of the parts.

Yes, genetically I am a combination of the genes of two family lines, each rich in their own right. But environmentally, I’m a combination of so many different worlds, and the brush with each leaves a slight residue, an additional color on the palette of my existence.

I had not talked to Mr. Campbell in many years; too many to count. But that does not diminish his impact, nor my memory of him. My dominant memory is of walking into their house through the kitchen door and seeing him sitting in his chair in the living room, smiling. And I think he was thinking of saying something that would surprise me, or make me think.

I hear often how we want to gauge the success of our lives by how many people we ‘touch’ with what we are doing, humbly saying, “If but one…” Well, I don’t think that matters. If no one is touched by what I do, it is not important. What is important is that I’ve lived faithful to who I am. I think Mr. Campbell did that, and I’m grateful.

Note: This Lent, join me as I consider living faithful to a calling, a calling to be human and compassionate, to live as Christ called us to live. I am going to post every day during Lent, and you can also subscribe to my weekly reflections. The Lenten ones for this year are available today.

John

In honor of Louis Bentivenga

My good friend Louis passed away on Oct 3, 2011. You might think, ‘How good if it took this long to talk about him?’ Or, it might indicate it took a long time to get over. Neither. I was trying to think of a way to honor his life, and decided I would do it in this post.

Do you have a friend who’s like cough syrup? Comes on a little rough, but in the end is better for you? That’s how I think of Louis (and this was confirmed by another good friend of his at his funeral). He was persistent, and sometimes, as I would joke with someone very close to me, he was like the friend you wanted to have go away. But no matter how often you turned him down for a cup of coffee, or lunch, or breakfast, he would keep asking and never felt (at least from my perception) hurt, never became petulant or pouty.

And what was good about those times we met? When we parted ways I realized the time flew by; more time than I had planned on. And I learned something, or felt listened to – and felt valued. It’s no wonder in his last year or two he made such an impression on some young people. I don’t know if they know (though I suspect they do now that he hasn’t been around for over a month), but I know they will miss him, too; his guidance and his ear. He always seemed to be introducing me to some new young man he was meeting with to talk about life.

Always the teacher.

And always the student, eager to join the book discussion group that met monthly for a while. He mentioned to me that it was his most stimulating time intellectually.

And then you find out what you mean to someone. I entered the church for his funeral Mass last Saturday, Nov 19, and was approached and asked if I would do the first reading. It was an honor that took me by surprise. One of his friends mentioned that he made a list of who he wanted at his funeral, and what he wanted them to do. Almost all of the requests were followed. And it was then that I understood what I meant to him.

We’ll continue our discussion, Louis, at a later time.

John