Saturday, December 5, 2009

Where We Need To Be

In a small town, everybody knows everybody.  But there are all different kinds of knowing.  I knew Frankie because we went to high school together and occasionally he did my hair.   But my bestie Sharon, she really knew Frankie.  They called each other almost every day, shared bad times and good times together, went out for breakfast after the bars closed, and had a thousand inside jokes from twenty-some years of friendship.  So when Sharon told me last Sunday that Frankie had had a major stroke and was not expected to live, I hurt more for Sharon than for myself.  I remember all too well what it's like to lose your best guy friend.  We went out to supper Sunday night and ate nachos together teary-eyed while I said the only thing I could think to say:  "Girl, I know just how you feel."  Frankie lingered between life and death for a couple of days while our hopes raised and fell and we felt increasingly helpless.  I ought to do something, I thought, something to make her feel better.  On the way to Taco Night Tuesday evening I suddenly turned my car around and called Sharon.

"Let's go over to the Catholic Church and light a candle for Frankie," I said.

"We're not Catholic, though," she said, "but Frankie is.  Let's go."

So I picked her up and us two Protestants tiptoed into the Catholic Church.  I had this idea that we'd go in there, light a candle for him, say a quick prayer, and be gone.  But God and Father Hansen had other plans for us.  We didn't notice until we were in the door that the priest was sitting alone in the back of the church.

"Um, hi," I said.  "We have a friend who is, um, dying and we thought we might light a candle for him.  Is that okay?  We're not Catholic and I don't really know what the rules are."

He smiled kindly.  "There are no 'rules' against a Protestant lighting a candle for a friend.  Come down to the front of the church and I'll help you."  His long black robes made a soft shushing sound as he walked us to the front of the church.  "Is there truly no hope?" he asked.  Sharon explained sadly that there was not, and then he said the Prayer of Saint Joseph for us, explaining that Joseph is the saint of a happy death.  As we repeated "Pray for him" after each of the Father's intonations, I saw some of the worry and fear go out of Sharon's face.  "Thank you very much for that, Father," she said.  On the way out of the church, Father Hansen paused us at the door.  "Do you know what the Last Rites are?" he asked.  We did not.  He beckoned us back into the Church and explained them to us, reading a part of them as he did so.  Again, Sharon and I thanked him.  He assured us we could come again whenever we wanted to pray with him.

We walked out to my car and, out of habit, checked our cell phones.  Both of us had the same text message from a friend:  "Frankie passed at 6:36 p.m. tonight," it read.  Our eyes met.  At 6:36 p.m. we were saying the Prayer of St. Joseph with the priest.  Sharon said softly, "God puts us where we need to be."  That He does, indeed.


  1. That is awesome, God is so amazing. Please give Sharon my condolences.

  2. Good grief, I'm sitting here bawling like a baby. I think I'm a little hormonal. I'm sorry for your loss, but ever so grateful you were able to be there for your friend.

  3. Wow. I'm so sorry for your loss and I hope you can find comfort from telling this story during this difficult time.

  4. Like Christine, when I read this, I was bawling like a baby. I'm glad Father Hansen was able to help you both.

  5. You're the very definition of a good friend! And I'm so SORRY that you've had to go through this yet again.

    I'm also glad that you got introduced to Catholicism courtesy of a priest like the good father. A lot of people misunderstand. And while I have my own quarrels with the Church (baptized and confirmed in it though I was) and haven't been a practicing Catholic in decades, I get really annoyed when I hear people describing Catholics as baby-eaters or idol worshippers. :-)

  6. I am so sorry to hear about your friend, but I am glad you were able to say a prayer and find a moment of peace for his passing.

  7. Beautiful. And what a wonderful person that priest was to help you. My condolences.

  8. I'm very sorry for your loss! God does have a funny way of doing things, but he always seems to have a plan. Thanks for sharing the story with us. :)

  9. Oh Jaynie, I just re-read this. I'm crying here at work. lol

    You are such a great writer. You need to write for the masses.

    Much love, S.