Home > Uncategorized > So Hard To Say Goodbye

So Hard To Say Goodbye

What follows is a speech I wrote/ad-libbed for Mass this morning to say goodbye to Father Oaks, who passed away after fighting liver cancer for four years. Only names and locations have been changed.

“There is little more difficult than letting someone into your life, caring for them, opening up. To do so seems to go against the trend of weariness and caution so many of us develop over the course of our lifetimes. And as hard as it is, saying goodbye is that much more arduous.

I remember sitting in the office before the 7:30 service this morning, trying to figure out how to honour this man who had so very much for so many of us. What could Father Cherry have been thinking when he asked me to do this? I guess he figured I would not try and hide my emotions, something anyone will tell you isn’t really a strong point of mine.

Compared to many of those gathered here this morning, I barely knew him. I first met Father Oaks in the summer of 2007 while I have spoken to some whom have known this amazing man from the time they were children back in the 70’s. I can’t touch on that knowledge but I can share with you all what I do know. The man who I have watched let the little ones braid his hair. Who gave his all to any who needed help. Who always had an open office policy with a ready ear and a warm smile waiting.

I have met few men more humble, more open, than Father Oaks. A true class act, it has been an honour and a privilege to know him. He did his best to prove that he was just a regular man and in doing so proved how much a treasure he truly was. He was a fellow fan of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, a country music fan going back to the days of Little Jimmy Dickens, and quite possibly the biggest fishing aficionado I have ever met.

It is impossible to list all the achievements of his 63 years on this Earth. And it is just as impossible to describe that man with one story. But I have to try my best. It was back in March of this past year and I was in Father Oak’s office as he was asking about how I enjoy my first Sunday school class. I don’t fully remember how we got onto the subject but we ended up speaking about perseverance. He knew my past and in light of that, told me something that morning that will stay with me until the day I die. ‘That faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to.’ And coming from a man who had seen the worst of humanity as a medic in the Vietnam War, I could not really argue that.

Father Oaks was a man who stressed more than anything else a certain love for your fellow man. Who believed in giving his all in his every endeavor. But lastly, he was a man who believed that even when a situation was its darkest, all we could do was stand up, smile, and walk forward. And as I fully believe that you are home behind the pearly gates, I have a message for you.

Thank you for all you’ve done and we will do our best to try and fill the enormous shoes you left behind. You are loved and you will be missed. Know that you left us in good hands.”

Somehow I made it through without my voice cracking. Seeing the people who I spend hours with every week, who I have gotten to know through my time in the church, hug those around them when a fresh burst of tears hit them. I watched as others stood up to share their own tales. I saw our organist playing her heart out after benediction, despite the tears running without hint of shame down her cheeks. This one man had touched us all.

That, my friends, is real power.

Photo courtesy of The Bait

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,
  1. Diane
    January 11, 2009 at 7:59 PM

    I’m so sorry. He sounds like an amazing man. Your speech was really lovely and I’m sure he would have been honored to hear your words.

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