Eulogy for Br. William
The first thing I noticed about William when I first met him, was his transparency, his openness and lack of being concerned about how he impressed me or others.
I also became aware of his gift of prayer, one that could go by unnoticed, since it was such a central part of who he was, that he carried this lightly without any fuss. There was never any fanfare, or outward show with him. He just prayed. When I worked in the retreat house in the early 90’s, I would often have to go through the church as I went back and forth throughout the day. On many occasions, like on a feast day, or a Sunday, he would spend hours just sitting quietly in church. There were times when he actually never seemed to leave. Just sitting, being in the presence of God. I would think he could do this because just as he was ‘his-self’ with others, he did the same with his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Perhaps because he was so transparent and did not even think about being other than whom he was, he did not carry the veneer of sophistication to hide anything within. Because of that reality, his lack of pretense, he could be at times a problem for some.
He was not perfect. He could be moody; he did have a temper, which he expressed openly. He would not follow the rules that govern many of us, and I loved that about him. Yes, we did have our run-ins. Yet I loved William right off, had the highest respect for him, and in reality, never wanted him to change.
For after all he was ‘his-self’, and it was like a refreshing drink of the purest spring water for me to be around him….that never changed over the years. Even when he was ill and did not know who I was, that inner childlike openness remained very apparent to me. The important thing was that I knew who he was, as did all the staff in the infirmary. When I told him that; “that we would remember for him”…. it did at times alleviate some of his anxiety, when he was aware that something was wrong.
If a soul can be thought of as a rainbow of colors, I would say that on one level William was made up of only the brightest and loudest colors, showing his light on an often dark reality. His main color would be of the richest burgundy, with a deep forest green and his light would be like the sun at high noon, deep yellow and warm. That was how I experienced him on a day to day level before he became ill. However, when he prayed, when he sat quietly before God, I think a different set of colors were there for only God to see. His honesty, his love of God and his tenderness for Christ Jesus, I am sure were of a more subtle and gentle hue, but both equally important and cherished by me.
I have journeyed with many on their last miles of life and have been at their death beds. Each experience is unique, each monk faces that ultimate mystery differently, (as each of us here will one day do) and most do so with faith and grace. However, in the final few days I have experienced something of the same in all of them, except William.
I would say that the experience that I feel is happening when most are near death, is a time of inner waiting, of sorting things out, and not moving on until that is accomplished. Perhaps it feels like waiting to get on a plane, wanting to so badly to get to ones destination, but the flight is being held back for an indefinite time. I guess we all understand that experience. A feeling of frustration, perhaps boredom, and yes, also pain. That is what I feel, or experience when sitting at the bed of one who is dying. With William that was missing. He was at peace, there was waiting, but I sensed that he was content, open, and totally unafraid of what was coming because of his transparent relationship with others, as well on a deeper level with God. I was grateful to have experienced this, since as I said above, he was a truly transparent, childlike man of God. He knew his need of grace and mercy, and made no bones about it. When he died, there was absolutely no struggle, just a gentle last breath coming from a man who knew himself, and trusted in God’s love for him.
Rose and I have traveled a long way with William, as has Beatrice, Stella and Jesse. Each of these women brought a special something to William and he noticed the difference. He loved Beatrice’s gentleness, Stella’s laugh and Jesse gentle silence. He was thankful for Roses deep caring as a caregiver and I want to publicly thank them for their loving service to the community, especially on this occasion to our Br. William.
Our final gift to others
The greatest gift we can give to another,
the final one in fact for many of us here,
is to allow others to care for us,
to permit them to show compassion and love,
and to consent to letting them see our best side,
as well as our inner struggles.
To fight them because we need to express our pain and frustration
and allow them to still care for us;
it is a gift that goes both ways.
For we grow by showing compassion and empathy,
and the reward of love is to simply love more,
as well as to be able to receive the love in return.