Friday, July 19, 2019

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

Today was the funeral of Patrick Keats, Professor of English Literature at Christendom College, who recently died of cancer.

Christendom is the small American university with which I am affiliated, where I taught in the classroom for many years before my illness, and which my children now attend (John Paul recently graduated).

These are just a few words of farewell to Pat. It's all I can manage now. I'll write at greater length soon. I have more good memories of this superb man than I can begin to articulate at this time. 

I'm quite "behind" in the task of putting recent losses into writing. Another beloved colleague at our school, Kris Burns, passed away the day before my father. I have much to say in her honor too, when the storm-of-everything this year settles down a bit (I hope). Indeed, I haven't yet been able to write an adequate tribute to Dad. Perhaps it will all just come in bits and pieces. It's a lot easier to write theology or historical or biographical essays than it is to find the words to say "goodbye" to people one really cares about.

This difficulty remains even when one knows that the "goodbye" is not forever. It's not the last word.

Pat was my friend for over a quarter of a century. He was a great colleague, and a huge help to me personally in my own most difficult days. He was also a professor to the Janaro kids, and producer/director of theatrical productions in which they participated. 

In a small institution full of "large personalities," he was always focused on the students, the community, and his work, which he carried out cheerfully and - it seemed - tirelessly. He was also a loving husband and devoted father. He was a man of strong principle, balanced judgment, and discretion, with a fine sense of humor and - above all - abundant charity.

He was a pillar of our local community. It is not a formality to say that he will be greatly missed. 

Rest in peace, Pat. May God give you the unfading crown of glory. You served Him well. Our prayers remain with you always, and especially for your courageous wife Lily and the kids.

God's ways are mysterious. He Himself is the Infinite Mystery. But He is the Mystery of infinite goodness and love. He permits evil in the world, only so that the mystery of His love might work a greater good. This must be the truth; yet these are hard words for our small humanity. In the face of our own suffering, they leave us gasping for air. 

If all we had was an abstract theory, a metaphysical theodicy, we wouldn't even be able to begin to bear it. But we know that the love of God embraces us through the heart of Jesus Christ, who has taken all our sufferings upon Himself and made them His own. He goes before us, He accompanies us, He is with us in everything we endure; He is transforming us and calls us to the fullness of His love and joy.

To Him we entrust our friend and brother Pat Keats, in the hope of the resurrection.   

"The Lord is good to those who trust in Him, to the one that seeks Him" (Lamentations 3:25).