“Pax tecum.” I’ll never forget those two words. And the beaming face of the man who said them. At first, I saw him in clinic intermittently. However, as time went on and his illnesses compounded themselves, our visits became more regular. Quarterly, monthly, every two weeks and, sometimes, even twice in the same week. Infections. Heart Failure. Valve problems. Arterial aneurysms. Back pain. Dick had it all. Did he ever.
I first met Dick and Sharon when their physician of decades retired. Dick, gently bowed by age (in his mid-70s) and illness, was still imposing at his full 6’2″ stature and 250 pound frame. He looked the part of the aging quarterback with the charisma to match. Atop his broad shoulders sat a square jawed face, a grayish shock of hair and piercing (yet dancing) eyes under an intimidating brow. And his smile. His smile. Dick had that one-in-a-million smile. Puckish, mischievous, but always good-natured. That smile was always quick with a joke, an insightful quote or a quick question about my family. Among his first words to me were the witty, but wise advice relayed by their aged, retiring physician about how to approach me, their new doctor, “Go easy on him. Spoon-feed him. Don’t give it to him all at once.” Their doctor knew that understanding – really comprehending – all that went into Dick’s health story was the work of years, not hours. And it was not simply about understanding Dick’s medical problems, but about understanding Dick.
Little could keep this man down. According to his son, Dick’s philosophy was that “a setback is a setup for a comeback”. And, without doubt, he lived that way.
But this was, in part, because Dick was also a man of deep, deep faith. Irish and Catholic to his very core, he attended schools like Ascension and DeLaSalle. He planned on becoming a MaryKnoll priest, but left the seminary when he realized that his calling lay within the Church, but outside the priestly vocation. He went to daily Mass and was known to haunt innumerable funerals. When his lovely daughter Anne asked about what Eucharistic Adoration meant to him, she expected a deep and theological response. She received one.
“I just sit there and stare at God. And God stares back at me.”
Read the rest... and be inspired to be like Dick.
The world could use more like him.