Monday, May 08, 2006

Eulogy for Dan

This may take a while. Several posts, actually. Or not.

The Head Spiritual Director for our weekend retreat (my own spiritual director and good friend) had taken me outside into the hall and told me: "Dan has finally ended his battle." I looked at her blankly, hearing exactly what she said and not comprehending a word. She repeated her words and I nodded, still not getting it. "They tell me he died peacefully." Died... Dan... Oh. I finally understood.

I don't mention my friends by name on this blog. (Often they know who they are anyway, just by what I write.) But this friend is dead. My words will not hurt him now. And I need to pay tribute to his memory. He was a good man, a long time friend, he loved God with all his heart, and his heart was pure gold. That is not to say he wasn't the biggest pain in the ass you'd ever want to meet... he definitely was that too.

His name was Daniel, which means "God has judged." The Old Testament Daniel, an exile in Babylon, had risen to a place of honor among the ruling muckety-mucks for his skill in dream interpretation, among other things. He got into trouble (like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago) for refusing to worship the pagan God of the Month... and was tossed into the Lion's Den. He survived that ordeal, but he died eventually too. We know that we all die eventually. Knowing doesn't necessarily prepare us.

I've said we were long standing friends, but several years ago it was more than that. He's had more than one girlfriend since me, and I've been increasingly fine with that. I could say he drove me to the convent, but I actually took the subway. He did drive me there once to pick up all my artwork after my exhibit... but I ramble.

He was a private man. Not me, I'm out there. I don't hide my feelings (or my relationships). At first the only way anyone knew we were dating was because I told them. He worried about that. He liked keeping his private life private. It never occurred to him that holding my hand in church every Sunday was not exactly private. One New Year's Eve he took me to a black tie party at our parish... I was Cinderella, he was prince charming. Those were the days.

He was a sacramental man, and worship was sustenance to him. He read Morning Prayer every day at his office. Some Saturdays we'd meet for the 10:00 am Eucharist at St. Bart's and then he'd want to walk over to St. Mary the Virgin for the noonday Eucharist there. He looked forward to retirement so he'd be free to go to church every day. (At the time I thought this was peculiar...) look at me now.

He was a man of habit and routine. It was comforting to him to do things the same way every time. He drove to work by the same route, always made a tuna sandwich for lunch. Not me, I like adventure and change.

He taught me the value of duty. I would argue for joy over duty any day. His dedication was awesome. Volunteers were expected to arrive for the breakfast feeding program by 6:00 am; he came in at 4:30. When the kitchen was a mess he'd complain loudly, but he'd also clean it up. He taught me the correct way to make peanut butter sandwiches, Al's way. He'd talk in his stern drill sergeant voice saying "You gotta do it right! Al's watching you!" I told him "Al has better things to do," and switched to tuna because there were no rules for those. Precision was important. "Cut those hot dogs into one half inch pieces, the meatballs exactly in half. Al's watching you!" He was merciless in his "quality control" and I was merciless in making fun of him.

We were like oil and water. Someone said this weekend "and you kept trying to make salad dressing..." That's true, I guess. The things we held in common were important things—love of God, dedication to service. But we disagreed about so much it was comical. We drove each other crazy. It was easier to be friends, and as a result, our relationship deepened on a spiritual level. It appealed to him that I became a nun. Since I was no longer a threat, he was more affectionate and open to intimacy. I liked that part too. I miss him.


kpjara said...

Thank you for sharing this tribute. Memory is a wonderful gift, truly!

HeyJules said...

I absolutely loved reading this. The line about making salad dressing was priceless, as, I'm sure, was your friend's life.

What a beautiful man. I hope there's more coming to this story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, CJ. See you at Dan's celebration on Thursday.


J.T. said...

You and Dan both are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I finally got to cry on Monday and now you are making me smile. See you Thursday. Love, Janet

Addie said...

Im still praying for you, CJ - Im sure Dan would have loved this post....

(and Id love to see you two dressed up in costume, if you ever feel like putting that out there as well)