It is with the somber feel of Holy Week that I write that our old friend, Fr. Dennis, has died. Last April I wrote about visiting him with my husband as he said Mass in his apartment. His tears as he tried to get through the Mass with his increasingly debilitating disease was so sad.
Fr. Dennis moved to assisted living shortly after we were there. By Easter Week he was cruising around his new place on a scooter, happily giving us a tour of the chapel where he could offer Mass for the residents. He introduced us to the resident Protestant chaplain and the easy affection and respect between them was apparent. Clearly, they were brothers in ministry.
He still ministered to us on that visit, laughing out loud as I complained about something at church. Then, with another laugh, he recounted for my son how I had come to him at other times with my “injustices.” He made it all better with his laugh. None of it really mattered.
We kept up on him, but heard he had to stop presiding at Mass at his rehabilitation center and that talking had become quite difficult for him. Then about a week ago, we were told that he had been moved to hospice. We knew many people who had stopped in to see him. He was exhausted, they said. There was a 5 minute limit. Wait a day or two before you go. And then he died.
We miss him very much. He has been with us in some close family tragedies and served as a sounding board for other things. We were on committees with him and could watch the great administrator at work. He was smart and funny and his laugh filled a room.
This week, as we attended the services for this wonderful priest and minister, I realized that a priest is not just “my” priest. We were there grieving. But so were dozens – hundreds? – of other families where he has been with them in their own losses. He has listened to many others besides us and let others share their difficulties. He has shared his with them.
Our family is one small family in his lifelong ministry, in one of many parishes and other places he has served. He knew we loved him, but I wish I had said Thank You more loudly and clearly.