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Reward of a reluctant ‘yes’

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I stood at the ambo and looked out at the crowd. They were all friendly faces, yet I was afraid to speak for fear of crying. It was only the second eulogy I had ever given, the first many years earlier. But this one was different. Patrick had died the week before at age 95, missing his 96th birthday by a week. He and I weren’t related and I only had known him for a few years, but we had become like family, my adopted grandpa. We hung out weekly, he knew my life story and I knew his.

It was an unexpected and unlikely friendship that almost didn’t happen. One day five years ago I received a call from the parish secretary asking if I (an extraordinary minister of the holy Communion) was willing to bring Communion to Patrick, who was homebound. I was hesitant. I had never done this before, it was uncomfortable and I was busy. For some reason I reluctantly said yes and unknowingly embarked on an adventure — on a friendship — that would change me forever. Looking back, it’s a great reminder that God works with even our reluctant yes and shows us what his plan is, where real joy is found.

When I first met him, Patrick wasn’t very mobile but was living alone in an apartment in the Rosslyn area of Arlington. He was a faithful Catholic, the youngest of seven children who grew up in a poor Irish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pa. Every relative and close friend he had known in his life had passed away. Patrick’s days were spent in near solitude reading and praying the rosary. He described his life as "monastic:" it was just him talking to the Lord all day.

After a couple of years, with me visiting him once or twice a week, Patrick’s health deteriorated, especially after a particularly bad fall. After a number of nights in the emergency room and even more in the hospital, it was clear that he was no longer able to live on his own. With the help of parish staff, we cleaned out his apartment and moved him into a retirement home.

Even though Patrick had never wanted to leave his apartment, he accepted his life as it was and as God had planned it for him. I never saw Patrick doubt God’s plan, his closeness to him or what his future held. He had reached a point of complete abandonment to the will of the Father, which I now try to emulate every day.

By my reluctant yes, God gave me the chance to journey with Patrick through his final days. He needed a friend, and even though I didn’t realize it, I needed someone to show me what faith looked like. Especially now as people are feeling isolated and weary of limited interactions, we should all consider whether there might be someone in our life who needs us to walk with them, to help them on this journey. Perhaps this means one more Zoom call or another walk in the neighborhood, but if we all say yes to just one person around us, we will allow God to work in unexpected ways and we may just change the world.

Sampson, who is from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, is in his second year of pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020