Sad News

Tuesday, while busy at work, I received an unexpected call from Evan.

“Hi Evan, what’s up?”

“My friend Doug died.  They just called to tell me.”

That morning on the news, I’d heard about an accident at Utah State, but the student’s name hadn’t resonated with me.

The media reported his real name — Eric — not the name he’d been given by his circle of friends — Doug.

“We called him that because we decided there were too many Erics in the world and he looked like the cartoon character,” Evan explained.

Doug was part of the group that Evan ran with at Utah State.  They were close friends who supported one another through school and life and developed a tight bond.  And now one of them was gone.

Evan felt the loss deeply and had already been given permission to return for the weekend for the funeral.

“You’re part of a community back there,” I said.  “Embrace them and let them support you.”

And the Paulist community did, indeed embrace Evan.  They modified the retreat to include a prayer service for Doug (from the Paulist prayer book).  They have supported Evan and helped him with ground transportation.

Once Evan had the time for the funeral, we set about arranging his air travel.  Given that it was the Wednesday before a holiday weekend and Evan had to leave from Albany and return to New York, I was not optimistic about finding available seats.  Praise God, Expedia coughed up a flight that matched Evan’s scheduling and geographical requirements.  We booked it and sent him the confirmation.  He’ll be arriving late tonight and leaving early Monday.

This experience, too, is part of Evan’s formation.  I’ve been reading Just Call Me Lopez (a sort of novel that serves as an introduction to the life of St. Ignatius and Ignatian Spirituality) and I was struck by this passage from the introduction:

Miracles so often happen in the midst of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure. In fact, those experiences would seem to be God’s preferred location for the work of transformation.

So I pray.

I pray for Eric and his family.  I pray for Evan and all of Eric’s friends and ask God to use this experience to let them feel the embrace of His love.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Requiescat in pace.

Edit: Forgot to mention.  Please join us in praying for Eric and his family and, if you want to express your condolences please click here to access the obituary and guest book.


Last Things

eschatologyToday’s vocabulary word is eschatology.  That’s the theological study of “last things” like death, the afterlife, eternity and the end of time.  Hang on to that tidbit, you’ll need it in a minute.

A little over a year ago, Evan’s Vocations Director, Fr. Dave, came out to visit Evan and to meet with us.  We fell to talking about the coursework Evan would have to complete in order to graduate in the spring of ’13.  By dint of hard work (including a summer semester after he changed majors and an insanely challenging semester with 18 credits) he was very, very close.  There was still a chance that he might not graduate.  In order to earn his degree, he choose one of two mandatory classes — and it wasn’t clear that either of them was going to be offered during the year.

“That’s metaphysics and eschatology, right?” I asked.

“No dad,” he said.  “It’s metaphysics and epistemology.”

“Oh.  Right.  EpistemologyEschatology will be one of the last things you’ll study.”

Theology puns.  Does it get any better than that?  (Yeah, probably, but thank you for indulging me by reading that.  The rest of this will be more serious, I promise.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about endings lately.  Evan is leaving.  As Cathy noted, she’s left her career in medicine and moved on to new challenges.  A good friend just lost her adult son to cancer.  It seems to be a season of endings for us.

We’ve been preparing with lots of “lasts” and last minute preparations.  (Which is, in part, why we’ve been so scarce in this space the last couple of weeks.)

When it opened, the boys and I went to see Elysium.  (Capsule review; don’t bother.)  Since the boys have moved out, the three of us have met from time-to-time for dinner and a movie.  I’ve always enjoyed those as I’ve learned how to relate to my sons as adults.  I suspect I’ve not always done a good job of working out this new relationship, but it’s been good getting to know them in a new and different context.

I’m going to miss having those “guys nights”.

A week ago Tuesday, we had Fr. Clarence over for a last dinner with Evan.  Ian, our oldest, was able to join us as well so we had the whole family together for a meal with our parish priest.  He told us about his vocational discernment, his years with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, the importance of myth and storytelling and his advice on entering the seminary.  (Make sure you have a good spiritual director.)

On Wednesday last week we attended the vigil for the Feast of the Assumption and Evan went with us.  That’s the last Mass we’ll share with him for a while.  When the Mass was done he spent a few minutes visiting with people in the parish whom he has known for years and who have been encouraging during this phase of his discernment.

Tuesday evening we had a family dinner together with both boys and my mother.

And, of course, on Wednesday morning (at an abysmally early hour) we said good-bye and sent him off on the plane to D.C.

We’re hardly the first family bid a child farewell.  Every day families send their sons and daughters off to college, to the military, to various kinds of service and education and employment in distant places.  Yet, this is a first for us.  Even though they moved out, both boys have been relatively close to home.  And, as Fr. Clarence pointed out, Evan’s community will become his family now in a profound and important way.

It’s surprisingly tough to see him go.  I’ve passed the last couple of weeks in a sort of anticipatory melancholy which balances my hopes for his on-going discernment process against the reality of his departure.  As they say on the internet, I’m feeling all the feels.

I’m proud of him, of course, and wouldn’t want him not to go.  At the same time I’ll miss having him close by.  I take comfort in the fact that this ending is also a new beginning.  It is not so much a season of endings, but rather a season of change in our lives.  And I look forward to seeing what other changes God has in store for us.

— Dad