“A new commandment I give to you....” I can see you singing when I close my eyes, standing in your spot in the church, serene, strong, loving. You sang with us, played with us, listened to us, spoke with us, just like you were one of us. Not like someone above us, but one of us. We knew you loved us and we loved you back more than can be described.
“That you will love each other, even as I have loved you...” You brought together people from all walks of life. There was something about you; about your goodness, your spirituality, your unending love. You were there for all who needed you and for all who didn't even realize they needed you. No matter how far you had to go, we knew we would always be in your thoughts, your prayers and your heart.
“By this all men will know, that you are my disciples...” You taught us so much, through your words, your actions, your sermons...you led us deep into Orthodoxy, answering any questions we had, showing us glimpses of your soul. You were not just our Bishop. You were our teacher, our confidant, our surrogate father, our friend.
“If you have love for each other.” Through you our love grew and expanded. There was never an end to it. You opened your arms and accepted us all and we accepted you in return.
Six years. I can not believe it has been six years. I still remember picking up my phone and hearing my sister tell me the news. My mind didn't make sense of what she was saying until she repeated it. I didn't want to believe it then. I don't want to believe it now.
Even after six years I miss you as much as I did on the day I heard of your passing. It's still hard to believe you're gone. You were always there, maybe not in the same city or in the same state but if we needed you all we had to do is reach out. You were always there. I know you're still there, in another form, still looking over us, looking out for us, we can talk to you at any time. But you can no longer answer.
There are so many things I wish for. I wish you could have gotten to know my boys. I'm so thankful they had a chance to meet you, to speak with you, to learn what tuckies were. But I wish we had been given more time.
I wish for one more meeting.
I wish for one more phone call.
I wish for one more chance.
And I know none of that will ever happen.
And then I feel angry at myself for not reaching out the last few years. For not emailing, not calling... why did I throw that time away? Would I have made different choices had I know? Of course I would have. But there's no going back.
I no longer feel angry with you for the choices you made during your brief illness. That anger has disappeared over the last few years and only a sense of pain and loss remain.
And that same thought eats away at me, that one that breaks my heart...the idea that you may have died alone, with no one to hold your hand or to comfort you. I don't know the exact details, I don't think anyone really does but I pray that at the end you weren't alone. I know God was with you at every moment. I know He was there to guide you, enfold you in His arms and bring you home. But I also pray that there were others there too, to hold you, to help you, to keep you from being afraid.
I've started being able to talk about you without crying but an occasional tears still slips by. I watch the video of you singing the 15th Antiphon at Matins for Great and Holy Friday every Pascha week but I can't make it through that one without tears. The same goes for the Kerygma songs you always sang with us.
My boys tell me not to talk about you because I end up crying but how can I not talk about you? So I do my best to keep you alive in my stories, memories and photos. So that, in some small way, they can know you too. I tell them so many stories of who you were and how you were with us, of your songs and sermons, your exploits and your talks, everything I can remember. Everything they will never get to experience for themselves.
I have so many memories of you. Sometimes I gather them together like a stack of photos, sorting from one to the other: how you rode the roller coaster 35 times in one night, how you got all of us kicked off the paddle boats and out of the park, How calmly and wisely you spoke, how you prayed and took confession, how you played volleyball, how you roller-skated with us, the water gun battles you had with Father Stephan, how you went out of your way to come to my first wedding and sang "Eat the Hot Dog and the Pizza" with us at the reception. How you hugged us, how amazing you were with children, how you taught us, how you loved us, and so many, many more.
And one of my favorite memories...if I think back I can see it all before me, Kerygma on stage, you at the microphone, singing the one line of “On the Cross” that was always yours... “He is sitting on the throne, making each one His own.”
I miss you. I always will. And today I will remember the good, share my memories with my boys and the people around me, and, with my words, try to bring you to life.
Memory Eternal BJ. It always, always will be.