by Father Mark Goldasich
It’s been a sad couple of weeks. Hearing about the death of friends will do that.
First, I was shocked to find out that Father Pete O’Sullivan had died. I got to know Pete when he spent summers at Most Pure Heart and Assumption parishes in Topeka where I was an associate. And The Leaven staff could always count on him dropping by our office whenever he had business at the church offices. He was gregarious and a hard worker. You can read Father Pete’s obituary on page 4.
Another hard worker and priest friend was Msgr. Mike “Doc” Curran, of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who died on the same day as Father Pete. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because I mentioned him in last week’s column. He was a classmate from Rome and my first traveling companion through Europe. He had a sharp mind and a humble spirit.
I next learned of the deaths of two women friends.
Lonnie Keller was a parishioner here in Tonganoxie and a former Catholic school and special-needs teacher in western Kansas. She and her husband Steve had celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in May, and she was one of the most hospitable, vibrant and pleasant people I’ve ever met.
I learned of the second friend’s death on Facebook. Susie Stone was a longtime teacher at Most Pure Heart of Mary School and dearly loved and respected. We shared an instant connection as we were both “Dottes,” having grown up in Wyandotte County and attended Catholic schools there. Her example and dedication inspired a number of her students to pursue teaching careers themselves.
In reflecting on the lives of these four friends, I was drawn to this story:
A young man answered a want ad for a farmhand. He told the owner about his previous work experience and then added, “And I can sleep when the wind blows.” Although this puzzled the farmer, he hired the boy because he needed the help.
During the next few months, the hired hand did everything asked of him, and the farmer was satisfied.
One day, though, a severe thunderstorm blew up around two in the morning. The farmer got up, put on his rain gear and ran out to tie down whatever needed to be secured. First, he checked the barn. The doors were shut tight, shutters were closed and the animals were all properly tied in their stalls.
Systematically, the farmer then checked the springhouse, the pump, storage shed, machinery and the trucks. Everything was secured.
The farmer continued to run from place to place, convinced that something had to be loose, uncovered or rattling. However, everything was as it should be. The farmer then stuck his head into the bunkhouse to thank the hired hand, only to find him fast asleep.
It was then that the farmer remembered that curious statement of the young man, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” He smiled, realizing that the hired hand had done everything he was expected to do and could, indeed, sleep when the wind blew. (Story found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds: Third Planting.”)
I take great comfort when thinking of these four friends that they, too, could rest when the wind blew. Each, in his or her own way, lived a life of joyful service. They were a light and an inspiration to those who knew them.
And being teachers, they might give us who still labor in the Lord’s vineyard the “homework” of praying these words from the late Father Ed Hays:
“Lord, may the news of these deaths be for me a holy message of how not to waste my todays, how not to be unprepared for the arrival of death in my own life. May I best remember these friends by being grateful for life today and by loving you, my God, with all my heart, all my strength and all my mind.”
Sleep in peace, my friends, your work is done.