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The Best Wake Ever October 18, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.

On Sunday, we had a little get-together to say good-bye as a Parish to Father Albert.  By “little” I mean there were so many people there that we were getting concerned that the Fire Department would shut us down, and by “get-together” I mean a tribute to a departing friend and priest that I won’t forget for a long time.

In Father’s own words, “It was the best wake I’ve ever been to.”

We laughed, we cried, we laughed some more, and we came together as a Parish family.  I realized how blessed I am to be part of such a large, loving, welcoming community.  My cup runneth over to an extent that I almost had trouble grasping.  And when I consider that I might not have been a part of that if it hadn’t been for Father Albert, my gratitude knows no limits.

I’m hoping to get my hands on the video of the presentations we made.  I made one speech on behalf of the Altar and Rosary society, and I helped with the choir presentation, and until I can get the tape of the event digitized and downloaded, I’m printing the text of my speech and the words to the song we wrote and performed by popular demand.

Bear in mind that this was meant to be read aloud, and while I was speaking I had audience reaction to feed off of, and of course Father Albert in the seat of honor making comments as well.  It was a more enhanced version, to be sure.  But here’s what I said, in a nutshell:

Eleven years ago, on a hot summer day, I was visiting with my Aunt Elaine at her house. At one point during our conversation, I found myself staring out her big front windows that overlook the rectory driveway, and I watched the guy mowing the priest’s lawn.

I’d already seen him out there a few times, always hard at work. He had on a sweaty baseball cap, a college t-shirt, shorts and sneakers, and I remarked to my aunt, kind of off-handedly, “It looks like the priest hired a new kid to mow the lawns.” She just looked at me, and laughing a little, said, “That kid IS the new priest.” I couldn’t believe it either.

If you had told me 11 years ago that I’d be standing here in this church today saying good-bye and thanks to Father Albert as a member of his Parish, I’d have been skeptical.

If you had told me that I’d be standing here in my official capacity as President of the Altar and Rosary Society, I’d have laughed in your face.

If you had told me eleven years ago that saying good-bye to him would be one of the hardest good-byes I’ve ever had to say, I’d have wanted to know what you were drinking, and could I please have some.

Because I’m here on behalf of the ladies of the Altar and Rosary, I asked them at our last meeting what it was they wanted me to say today, and I took some notes while they talked. Every woman in that room had a story, or some memory, or some thing she was thankful for.

They talked the most about his compassion. They talked about his kindness. Some told how he made them feel welcome here. They said a lot of really nice things about him and my plan was to capture those sentiments and share them now.

But when I sat down at my computer with my notes and started to put together a tribute, I’m not kidding when I say that I wrote thousands of words but none seemed to hit on what we meant. I mean, sure, he’s compassionate. And sure, he’s kind. But he’s a priest. Not for nothing, but it’s kind of in his job description to be compassionate and kind. It’s like thanking a firefighter for being good with a hose.

Then, as I sat staring at the screen, about to delete everything I’d written and just tell the joke about the priest, the rabbi and the horse, I finally figured out what was missing.

I remembered that I have the key. I know why it’s so hard to find the right words to describe what kind of a priest he is, and why it is we’re so very grateful that he’s been our pastor. And why it’s hard to explain in words exactly what we’ll miss about him. I know the secret to Father Albert.

See, if he decided today to chuck the whole thing, which at this point wouldn’t really surprise me, and send in his letter of resignation to the Pope–if he hauled his lawnmower and Family Guy DVD collection across the driveway to Robin’s third floor; even if he got his dream job at KFC, he’d still be the same guy.

He’d still be a daily, living example of Christ’s love in this world.

If he never again cracked a Bible, he’d still preach the Gospel every day just by the way he lives his life.

He would continue to be a model of compassion, kindness, and love, even if he traded in his collar and his habit for a hairnet and a name tag.

He is an amazing priest because he is an amazing person, and it is the person that we are going to miss.

The truth is, Father, and everyone in this room knows it, that priests come and priests go, but it’s the man inside the cloth that leaves his impression on a Parish, and you are forever an inexorable part of this place.

We are better for having known you because you know what is important, you live your life in the light of that knowledge, and once we know it too, we can’t help but follow. If we know Christ, it’s because you’ve shown us his face.

And as much as I wish the Bishop had completely forgotten that you were here and left you with us until we were both drooling into our tapioca, we all know that there are so many people out there still searching for that light, and like you did here, you’re going to bring it to them.

And if we seem to smile smugly when we talk about your new Parish, it’s just because they have NO IDEA of the blessing that is about to land in their front yard.

I bet they’re going to be as surprised as I was to find it’s mowing the lawn.

Despite not being sure it would happen, I managed to get through the whole thing without a single tear.  I was strong, I kept it light, and I think two glasses of wine might be the key to me  being a public speaker.

Of course, I had to catch my breath before going up to be a public singer as well.

Jeanne and I came up with the idea of changing one of the songs we do during Mass as a tribute to him, changing all the words to things that we’ll remember and miss.  So we recruited Sistah and the three of us went over to Jeanne’s house one Sunday night, drank some margaritas, and once Jeanne hit on using our Lenten penitential litany, “Hold Us in Your Mercy” as the base tune, it was ON.

The song is comprised of 11 couplets followed by the community’s refrain.  Jeanne sang “Hold us in your memory,” and then we set to work brainstorming things about him that were funny and would make good song fodder.

Then we just made them rhyme and fit the music, and in a couple of hours, I was half in the bag and the song was in its draft form.  I tightened it up the next morning once my headache went away, Sue P. was brought in to sing it with me, and the rest, as they say, is Parish history.

It’s really meant to be seen, or at least heard, but for the people reading it who were there and wanted to see the words, here they are.

Hold us in your memory (Hold us in your memory)

Hold us in your memory (Hold us in your memory)

As you’re called by the Holy Ghost, (Hold us in your memory)

Here’s what we will miss the most: (Hold us in your memory)

Mass starts at eight, not eight-thirty; (Hold us in your memory)

It runs long when you get wordy. (Hold us in your memory)

Who just fainted in the back? (Hold us in your memory)

Blood sugar or a heart attack? (Hold us in your memory)

Christmas lights sure set the mood; (Hold us in your memory)

Public Service loves you too. (Hold us in your memory)

It’s fifty-five, I have a chill. (Hold us in your memory)

Did you ignore the oil bill? (Hold us in your memory)

So much incense I feel woozy; (Hold us in your memory)

I go home smelling like a floozy. (Hold us in your memory)

You dunk babies that we bring, (Hold us in your memory)

Then reenact The Lion King. (Hold us in your memory)

Four hour Vigils take their toll; (Hold us in your memory)

It’s our Catholic Super Bowl. (Hold us in your memory)

Brides and grooms don’t dare be late, (Hold us in your memory)

Your lawn and gardens just won’t wait. (Hold us in your memory)

Thou shall not sing Amazing Grace, (Hold us in your memory)

You’re all too white–it’s a disgrace. (Hold us in your memory)

Changing lyrics is a breeze; (Hold us in your memory)

Lift High the Scotch and Tasty Freeze. (Hold us in your memory)

The Christmas Fair we all adore; (Hold us in your memory)

It looks like Little Bangalore. (Hold us in your memory)

We’ll miss your Benedictine black: (Hold us in your memory)

Once you go monk, you don’t go back. (Hold us in your memory)

Hold us in your memory

Hold us in your memory

Hold us in your memory…

When I get video, I’ll post it.  It’s really pretty funny.  And rather poignant, because that litany is sung by Father Albert during Lent.  He comes in and after starting the incense, he kneels before the altar and sings it with the choir and community singing the refrain.  It’s really very powerful and beautiful, and someone at rehearsal said that this parody was going to ruin the song for us come Lent.

Jeanne pointed out that we might not be singing it this year at all, and that swift, sudden knowledge that we wouldn’t hear Father Albert lead us like that again led to a few unexpected tears.

The things I’ll miss keep coming up like that…hitting out of nowhere and taking me by surprise.  One minute I’m fine, and the next minute I’m sitting here with tears running down my face.  It’s getting better, I swear.  And I know it won’t be long before I’m thinking of other interesting things to write about.

But if one can’t be self-indulgent on one’s own blog, what’s the point?  Right?




1. Phyllis Poulin - October 22, 2011

Thanks Jen, The pictures are great and I love the words to the song. Phyllis Poulin

2. Pippa Posey Peanut Butter Pants - October 26, 2011

Can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed reading the last two posts Poops. Good job.

3. Carol Heydt - April 27, 2012

Just wanted to read/ remember again… Thank you, Jen, for the well-written rembrances!

4. King of the Doodles « askpoopsplease - September 14, 2012

[…] as you know, Fr. Albert left our Parish late last October. We all took it kind of hard. Okay, really hard. Emma kind of freaked us out a bit. She didn’t have much of a reaction. […]

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