As a child, I didn't go to church much. I'm not even sure we qualified as Twice-a-Year- Christians (you know - the ones that show up on Christmas and Easter). My grandmother would sometimes try to "church" us kids by taking us to her Christian Scientist services, but shoot... seems like all they did was stand up and read out of books for an hour and finish up with "Onward Christian Soldiers" before we got to go to Jerry's for lunch and hot fudge sundaes. To us, what happened after church was the whole reason for going in the first place.
So life went on. My dad worked, my mom popped out a new brother every couple of years, we went to school and weekends were for fun.
Until one day my mom gave birth to a little boy. I don't know exactly what happened, but he only lived for a half hour before he died. Mom went to the hospital big and round and came home weeping. I didn't really understand what had happened but my parents were devastated. Then came the process of burying the baby. My father had grown up in the Church of England, and so naturally turned to the Episcopal Church for the rites. And the rector who "caught the call" was Father Bob.
He was incredibly gentle with my parents. There were no remonstrations for not being members of the church or even not going to church at all. He took them in hand, talked to them and conducted a lovely quiet service for this baby who was not to grow up.
My father, in particular, was moved by this and we started going to church. The same church where Father Bob was the rector. My brothers and I grew up there. We became part of a group of kids - we belonged in a way we never had anywhere else. As the years went by, we were confirmed by Father Bob. We went to Camp Weed on retreats with him and the whole church family. It really was a family - and this gentle man was the father of it.
When I got married for the first time, Father Bob performed the ceremony.
I remember him quietly pacing around the grounds of the church, smoking and thinking. He loved church suppers, or suppers that went with weddings, or baptisms, or any other celebration you could think of...
Even my grandmother loved him and she was a tough sell (sitting to his right)!
So, yes. I was very sad when I heard the news.
Mom forwarded me the obituary from the newspaper. It was full of the facts of his life. The schools he went to. The churches he'd served. The committees he'd been on. The rank he'd achieved serving with the National Guard. Those items were followed by a long list of survivors which included his second wife, his two daughters, his step-sons and stepdaughter, grandchildren, and various other family members. It didn't mention his first wife, who'd preceeded him in death several years ago - long enough for him to have a second wife for quite a while.
The obituary took up quite a lot of space, but facts was really all it gave. There was nothing terribly personal about it - it didn't give any feel for the kind of man he was. It didn't tell you how rich his voice was when we began singing part of the service, or how gentle his hands were when he blessed you. How he would quietly sit back and let us kids just be kids with a funny little smile on his face when one of us would tell a really terrible joke.
How he thought our name for him was just fine. You see, "Father" was abbreviated "Fr.".
You will be missed, Fur Bob.