One year ago today was the end of a miserable month for me. One year ago today, my friend Father Bob died. He was the fourth friend to die between August 12 and September 12, 2011. The other three had died within four days of one another. Three of the four, including Bob, died from cancer.

Father Bob was first my pastor and then my friend for 35 years. I was the organist at the first church he was assigned. He loved music, architecture, antiquing, and travel. We could talk for hours. Our sensibilities and politics were comparable.

Over the course of our friendship our relationship changed – several times. Once, at our common church, I didn’t see him for several weeks. When we did see each other, I told him,  “I’m so glad to see you, I could give you a hug.” He was horrified I would say such a thing or consider it. A short time later, he was transferred to another parish because his time was up at the first church. After a few months, I drove to Mansfield to visit him and was stunned when he opened the front door of the rectory, threw his arms into the air while shouting “Liiin-daaa!!!” and enveloped me in a welcoming hug.

Okay, I guess.

We shared many hugs since then.

Years later we talked about this change and he explained about becoming more comfortable with himself and his priestly role.

At some point after he had moved away, in a long range planning moment, I asked him if he would say my funeral. We both laughed many times over the years about his response. Over exuberantly he said, “Oh, Linda! I would love to say your funeral.”

I even reminded him about that on one of my final visits to him after he was under hospice care. He was going to say my funeral.

Our relationships had challenges too.

Husband and I traveled to his parish when we wished to be married. After about a half hour, Bob stated that he wouldn’t marry us. Bob didn’t feel Husband had the right spiritual outlook.

I admit, their senses of spirituality were diametric.  Years later, Bob explained that actually he didn’t feel that Husband was good enough for me. Husband and I will celebrate our silver anniversary next month. (So this is what having an older brother is like.)

Bob did oversee the renewal of our vows five years ago. He even cooked us a dinner that Husband and Son still talk about. Now, every time I see dried onion soup mix, I think of Father Bob and the delicious potatoes we had that evening.

Bob was an intrinsic part of a local memorial after my dad died, traveling to Urbana on a Tuesday evening to participate.

One memorable Saturday, I was within an hour of him visiting another friend. On an impulse, I surprised Bob. Turned out he needed a friend that evening. He allowed me the opportunity to help at the Saturday vigil Mass then took me out to eat. I never asked how he explained to his congregation about the stranger who helped read the Passion Gospel that evening.

Our birthdays were only 3 days apart – both December babies. (He was 362 days older). Every year he sent a card for my birthday. And, it was never “just a card”, it was a card that I could tell was picked just for me. One time, it had the World’s Longest Garage Sale on it. Who finds cards with the World’s Longest Garage Sale on them?

About every three months since I’ve stopped teaching, the two of us have traveled to centrally located Marion, Ohio to share a meal at Red Lobster. More than one waitstaff was asked for the check early because we would intended to still be at the table long after the attendant’s shift was over.

It is very difficult for me to “lose” my friends (I hate the euphemism – he’s not lost, but is truly found.) It seems more difficult this time – perhaps because of the length of time Bob was a part of my life, perhaps because I’m not in contact with anyone who shared Bob’s life.

Bob had a favorite song that I used to play at Mass. It was Prieur de Notre Dame by Böellner. One time when I visited him, he asked me over and over and over again to play it for him. “Nobody plays it like you.” “Just one more time.” I played it at least eight times for him that time.

Now, every time I play it, it is for you, Bob. I just wish I could see how much you are enjoying it.

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