I went to Mass at St. Francis of Assisi near Penn Station to pray for the smooth transition of my friend Brian's father, Stanley.
It was fortunate for Brian that his Dad passed while Brian was here in the states. Brian came in from Brazil to tend to a legal matter and during this precise time, his father died. Stanley was ready to move on especially since his health had declined two years ago and got progressively worse. I hope he is finally with his beloved wife who died many years ago and he missed terribly.
I was waiting to hear from Brian as to the time and place for his Dad's viewing so I kept my blackberry on not to miss the call. As I walked into the back of the Church, my phone went off. I tried to reach it quickly but it was somewhere buried in my large handbag. Fitting as it was, I don't think the congregation appreciated the playing of my ring tone, Bob Dylan's, "knock,knock,knock on heaven's door." I made a quick turn and ran out of the church. I finally found the damn thing and answered it. There was Brian on the other end with the news of when his father's viewing would be and that it would be a bit later than expected because his father's Church was having a peach festival; no time for funerals.
I could hear that Brian still had his sense of humor as he laughed about the church's reverence for peaches. I took the liberty of telling him that his call resounded throughout the church with the Bob Dylan ring tone that he knows very well. He chuckled again. Good, another chance for a break in what I feel is exaggerated piety when I speak with someone who has just lost a loved one.
That's when Brian asked me to light a candle for his Dad. I knew he was going to ask me that. As I walking to Church I thought, "I bet Brian calls me any minute now and when I tell him I am going to Mass, he will ask me to light a candle." I thought of that already, but I didn't have a God damn dollar. I am on this new budget now and I try not to have cash on me. I use my debit card only and it keeps me from buying extra things I see on the street. I told Brian that I had thought of lighting a candle but I didn't have a dollar. That's when Brian burst out laughing and then that was it. The floodgates opened and I went on about the sorry state of affairs these days and that we all need more money and now I will owe God a dollar. I never thought there was a way to actually owe God money. I was certainly good for lighting a candle since I would be back the following week and I could pay God back then. I went on to say that I could light a candle and not owe anything at all since I gave five dollars a couple of weeks ago in the offering basket. Who was I trying to fool? I couldn't negotiate with God, the offering was the offering, and the candle was the candle.
With that I ended the conversation and went into Mass with a smile on my face. During Mass I prayed for many things. First for Stanley, then for the other eight people who died this year so far. What a record year of lay-offs, endings, and deaths. I ran out of sympathy cards I bought at Duane Reade twice already. I also prayed for more money so I could light more candles.
When I finally got around to lighting the candle for Stanley, I remembered my father and how Brian was with me at his funeral years ago. After the service, we were driving back to a friend's house and we passed a school that was having a carnival. I immediately thought of my father who ran the school carnivals. I thought it would be fitting to go to the carnival and have fun that day. Brian, Michael, and our friend Adele ate candy and went on the rides in honor of Mike, my Dad, the man with carny in his soul!
Next week when I will return to Mass I will slip a buck in the slot to pay my debt and I will bring another one to light a candle for all the rest who departed in 2009.
Michael Stiller's mother
Marino Zulich's mother
Cindy Allen's father
Xiang Xu's father
Linda Zatta's step father
Helene Oberman's father
Brian Rook's father
Rita, our young neighbor
Tony's young son
9 is the number of completion, maybe that's it for this year but there are still 3 months to go.