Softly, as I leave you

By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter

“I’ve always wanted to go out with a bang, that’s why I carry two bricks around with me wherever I go, so when I leave a room I clap them together.” – Nicole McKay, “A bit of rubbish about a Brick and a Blanket”

When you leave someone, do you do it well, bricks or no bricks, or are the footprints others wish you would leave on their hearts vanish like the 1930 radio drama “The Shadow?” (The Shadow was characterized as having “the power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him.” As in the magazine stories, the Shadow was not given the literal ability to become invisible.) We all know people who simply vanish from our lives. They don’t leave footprints on our hearts,” They just leave.

A more positive outcome occurred in one of the readings of a funeral Mass I recently celebrated for one of our residents. The First Reading was from the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 2, verses 1-11. It was about leaving. The prophet Elijah was to depart to heaven in a fiery chariot. But before he left, he had to convince his prophetic companion Elisha that he just had to go. He told him he must go – four different times in four different ways. Elisha repeatedly replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”

Finally they arrived at the Jordan River, Elijah said to Elisha, “Request whatever I might do for you, before I am taken from you,” Elijah said.

“May I receive a double portion of your spirit?” Elisha asked.

“You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise, not.”

As they walked on still conversing, a fiery chariot and fiery horses came between the two of them. Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind, and Elisha saw it happen. Then he saw him no longer. Elijah had handed over the baton to John at the Jordan River.

John handed over the baton to Christ at the Jordan River. The Jordan River was a sign of the kingdom of God being established in the Promised Land.

The resident who died, as far as I know, didn’t warn her family four times that she was going to the Jordan River. When the call came from God to her, she was sitting in a comfortable chair with a warm cozy blanket wrapped around her. No one saw her leave.

I am reminded of the song: “Softly, as I Leave You” by Giorgio Calabrese and Tony De Vita.

Softly, I will leave you softly

For my heart would break if you should wake and see me go

So I leave you softly, long before you miss me

Long before your arms can beg me stay

For one more hour or one more day

After all the years, I can’t bear the tears to fall

So, softly as I leave you there

(Softly, long before you kiss me)

(Long before your arms can beg me stay)

(For one more hour) or one more day

After all the years, I can’t bear the tears to fall

So, softly as I leave you there

As I leave you there

As I leave you there

After a person has died I pray that their life of faith began in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table and nourished by the other five sacraments: confirmation, confession, anointing of the sick, holy orders and marriage.

I ended my funeral homily with this sentence: “We have confident belief that death is not the end for this resident, now taking the baton at the Jordan River, nor does it break the bonds forged in life with her. Let us pray that we receive a double share of the spirit of our departed loved one. To those who leave us, may your journey to the kingdom be safe and secure!

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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