Yesterday I went to a funeral. It was both sad and happy; sad because we all said goodbye to a great man, happy because we have no doubt he is enjoying eternal rest with God… which for believers is kind of the goal, right?
Fr. George Wolf was a Catholic priest. He was also a brother, a cousin, an uncle, and a dear friend to many wonderful people. The impact of his life was great and even in death he continues to inspire.
George's cancer diagnosis came five short months ago. While a complete and total miracle healing is what we all wanted, it was not to be. As often happens, fervent prayer brought a different kind of answer, the kind difficult to accept without faith in God.
At his funeral yesterday, I was surprised to realize my grieving process for George actually began when I first heard of his illness. While I believed anything was possible with God, a diagnosis of cancer in the brain, liver and lung was pretty bad. My first conversation with George, after he got the news, was a big-time reality check with the fact that cancer does not discriminate and neither does death. Preparing myself for the mere possibility of his passing began my grieving process.
After three days of celebration through Masses and a beautiful vigil service, my grief is in a different place. I still can't believe he's gone. I miss knowing he's here making a human difference. I hear his laugh and the sound of his voice in my head. I pray I never forget it. George was a priest who made me proud to be Catholic. His wisdom, advice and love cannot be replaced. Tears come and go and I know this all part of grieving.
Google the word grief and you'll find countless opportunities for insight. Ask me what I think and I'll tell you I'm seeing grief in a new light. It is unavoidable and strangely fascinating.
It may sound elementary but I see for myself now that grief is not simply a linear process… it has multiple dimensions. It ebbs and flows as it comes and goes at varying levels. You can use the words "grief" and "process"… in conjunction with defined stages… in an attempt to explain feelings… but the truth is… no two people will experience grief at the same depth or the same time… for the same reasons.
In the end… grief is necessary because death happens. How we experience grief will vary depending on these factors and more; where we are at in life, how significant the loss, whether or not we live by faith and how deeply we love.
My compassion for those who are grieving has expanded through this experience. I know I can be there for others but I really can't know the depth of their pain. My heart has opened a little bit more and that's good.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
In addition: Fr. George loved being a priest and he never took himself too seriously. There are countless tales of his humility and humor. I wrote a song for him in 2005 for his 25th Anniversary of Ordination celebration. It's called White Collar Blues. Here is a link to the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ltamu3YdNK4