Friday, April 06, 2007

Fur Bob

My mom called me yesterday to tell me that Father Bob had died. And I was very sorry to hear this... You see, Father Bob WAS the church to me as a young girl, as a teen, as a young woman getting married for the first time. He was my priest. He was my family's friend.

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.

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When my brother John got married, Father Bob was there too.

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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...

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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.

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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.".

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You will be missed, Fur Bob.

12 comments:

quinn said...

hey there my sincere condolences.. and that was a super wonderful tribute to a man that was such a meaningful part of your life.
take care

noelle said...

Obits are just filling in facts, aren't they? But what you just wrote about Fur Bob was wonderful. It sounds as though your family was changed when he came into your lives. I'm sometimes amazed at the affects we have on the lives of others, it's nice to hear how positive his was.

swampbunny said...

Well, I came over here to leave some goofy remark about "gooney birds," and found this wonderful tribute to Fur Bob. With this tribute, so well-written, I think I know him. What am impact he made on your life and, I'm sure, the lives of many others. You can just see the gentleness and sincerity in his eyes. I love it when someone puts their whole soul into a post like this one.
I'll just leave my goofy comment back at my place. Kathy

Vancouver mermaid/Montreal photographer said...

What a lovely lovely way to show us all about who he was.

I was moved by your post, and even had tears in my eyes by the end of it.

take care of yourself hon, and allow time for grieving.

Hugs,
Michelle

Janet said...

I think it's rare to feel a connection like you are feeling nowadays. People sometimes forget that priests are people, too. It's amazing the things that bring people to religion as well. My grandmother never went to church. She had a hard time finding rooms to rent a few years ago and discovered what she considered "a blessing" down the road from a church. She considered that a sign and she's gone ever since.

Happy Easter, btw!:)

Groovy Lady said...

That was a beautiful post. :)

Even when paths no longer cross as much as they used to, it's a difficult thing to lose someone that played a role in shaping you into the person you turned out to be. I'm very sorry for your's and your family's loss. It sounds like he was a wonderful man.

I hope you and your family have a lovely Easter. :)

Mel said...

Beautiful, Sayre.
(((you)))

HoosierGirl5 said...

Oh, what a lovely tribute, Sayre. I have a priest friend like that, too...he's the reason my middle son is named "Daniel" and he baptized ALL four of my kids, even coming home from California to do the last one!
Happy Late Easter!
J.

Jeff said...

From time to time, someone writes to the editor of our local newspaper to honor someone that had recently passed. Yours was the best I have read. Perhaps, if you feel it would be okay, you could do something like that in the paper where the obit was placed.

Just a thought.

nikki said...

God bless! Say hi to my gramps for me!

Theresa SNELL Sumner said...

Dear Sayre,
Your tribute to my father - Fr.Bob- was so touching - it was absolutely AWESOME. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful memories, feelings and pictures - He would be honored - as I am honored by your article. Thank you for remembering my mother also! You have a great family and Advent was a great time in our lives! Thanks again for sharing! I am deeply touched.
Blessings to you and your family.

Jan Snell Clifton said...

Sayre, Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to my Dad . He would have been so honored to know he made such an impact on you. He really was a great man. Our time at Advent was the best of times for our family,it did feel like one big family of good people.He loved everyone at Advent so much. I love the pictures and I am so thankful that you posted them.God Bless your family,Jan