Monday morning I got word that my fiend Tom Roeser had died the day before. In the early 1970's, when I was eleven or twelve, I read a series of articles in the Sun Times by Mr. Roeser about the Catholic Church, Vatican II, and how most people held misconceptions about both. They were informative, well written, and they had an influence on me. Years later, when I had the good fortune to meet Tom Roeser, I was able to tell him that these articles were one of about a dozen factors in my decision to become a Catholic. He was visibly touched and said that bringing someone to the Faith was the best work a man could do and that he was gratified to know that he had in some small way helped me to find God. That was fifteen years ago, and we have been friends ever since.
Of course, I'll be going to his funeral. I've already written a letter of condolence to his wife. In a few weeks, I will probably have an opportunity to talk to her after mass and I can think of a dozen things to say that will probably make her feel better. I imagine it is a comfort to her to know that many, many people's lives were touched by Tom and will miss him. He was eighty-two years old, he had enjoyed a good measure of success in his life, he died a loyal Catholic with every expectation of God's mercy, and so his death is not a tragedy, but rather the inevitable final act of a long life well spent.
Somebody else died early Sunday morning.
Sunday we had gotten a call. A boy had fallen off a building. Police weren't giving out any details, but someone we knew in the building called to tell us that one of the two people in the building unaccounted for was my son's friend "D." It wasn't until the next day that we got word that, in deed, D. had fallen to his death in what was probably a senseless accident. My son was told that all of D's friends were going over to be with D's parents at in their dreadful hour of loss. My son spent the better part of the day there, only coming home late in the evening.
When he got home, my son was plainly worn out, depressed, dragging. Wife-mate gave him some soup and no one spoke. After a few minutes, I mentioned that our friend Mr. Roeser had passed away on Sunday. My son nodded and said, "I'll have to write Mrs. Roeser a letter."
"I've already written one; you can just add your signature to mine."
"I'd like to write her a letter, I know what to say to her."
And we all understood what he meant by that. He meant that he had just spent a whole day with people that will never be consoled, who will never find comfort in his words, whose loss is unspeakable. After that, writing a letter to Mrs. Roeser would not only be easy, it would be a comfort to him.