‘Are you going away with no word of farewell
‘Will there not be a trace left behind?
Well I could have loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind,
You know it was the last thing on my mind’
In any experience of closure, of goodbye, of an ending, we are left with the inevitable question, is that it? What remains? Is there anything left, and if so what? When this applied to a person we may speak of legacy, of last will and testimony. How will we be remembered? Or, indeed, will we be remembered.
For many of course their memory will be carried by their children, indeed some go as far as to say they will live on through their children. A few years ago I read somewhere of the psychological benefits of fathering a child, writing a book and planting a tree. It seems that there is a deep need in us to leave something behind. To be remembered. Is it the idea that we cannot bear the thought of being forgotten? Is it the notion of all trace of us being obliterated is too awful? The opening lines here in the rumblings come from a popular, if rather sad, love song,
Last Thing on My Mind
which was covered by a few artists, and arises out of the context of love lost, or at least the impending tragedy of love lost.
I think it’s interesting to explore this in the context of life as a religious or perhaps more more pertinently here, at the moment, in the context of priesthood. Sometimes in the past Sr. Elizabeth was remembered for the trojan work she did in the hospital. Bro. Gillespie will never be forgotten. This type of talk can at times be applied to the life of a priest. However, this is less so today. It is less so today for a couple of reasons. First of all there are fewer priests. As well as this, the days of a priest being in a parish for twenty plus years is more or less a thing of the past. On top of this is the sad but sobering thought that there is quite a change in the way priests are viewed. Of course this is a generalisation but there is a broad truth that in many quarters priesthood is not held in the high regard that it once was. Admittedly some of this is of our own making: whilst some of it is beyond our control. Regardless of how we argue it whilst I acknowledge the terrible stuff we are familiar with I still argue the beauty of priesthood and stand in its defense.
I think in these rumblings, of which there are only two left, as I reflect on my time here in St. Matthew’s, I ask myself what of the relationship between priest and people. I think there may be something unique between pastor and people. I think this uniqueness is made up of the moments when we met in the sacred spaces. Some of these sacred spaces are obvious. The space in the preaching of the Word and the breaking of the Bread. Or the times we met in heartbreak at your beloved’s funeral. Or the fun and the joy of the family wedding. A lot of us met at Baptisms celebrating the great gift of life. Sometimes we met in a short quiet exchange around something that mattered. Of all this what will remain?
Well let’s try and nail it! If its all about me then I have truly failed. If it’s all about me it’s borderline cult. If I believe ‘there’s no show like a Joe show’ then I am in trouble. I need extra prayer. There are people in the cemetery who thought they were indispensable. Not long from now people will say ‘Joe who?’ and so what. That’s not a big deal. What I do hope is that there will be a trace left behind. A whiff, a whisper, a rumble and that, somewhere in that, there will be a little hint of Jesus. If that happens, it will have been all worthwhile.