Improvised
Musings of a 30ish Midwestern Catholic Improv Guy.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003  

I was going to retire from blogging...



I stare at a computer screen for hours on end anyway. I don't surf at work anymore -- too risky -- so I haven't been reading blogs, except for Mark Shea's. I can't say anything which hasn't been said better by someone else. I haven't even commented on the Packers games.

But the last two days have brought me back....

Rev. Dr. Stephen R. Wiest RIP



I got a nasty shock yesterday morning when I saw Steve's name among the obits. He had been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for a few years, but the bone marrow transplant had apparently taken and he was in remission. What in Heaven's name had happened?

A mutual friend filled me in on the details. The cancer had returned, and was in his bones and liver. He went quickly, spending less than a week in the hospice before the Lord called him. That was a mercy.

The wake was held tonight at his congregation. Steve was dressed in cassock, surplicem and red stole. His biretta was by his head; a harmonica rested on a shelf in the lid; and his hands held an icon of his namesake. My eyes filled with tears as I looked down at him, and the memories came back.....

.....the first time I met him at the UW-Milwaukee student union, where he was playing a sweet, clear "Amazing Grace" on his harmonica.....

....the time I took him shopping for his first chasuble......

.....teaching him to burn incense properly......

....the fascinating discussions at his home.....

...his two young daughters and his very patient wife.....

....the retreats he conducted, and the friends I made from them....

....going out with the housefellow and another pastor friend for beer and theology...

...hearing about all the trouble he was in for his High Church ways, for which I bore part of the responsibility (not that he needed much persuasion)....

....hearing him refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as "the Blessed Virgin Mary", and meaning it...

...Lending him books and seldom getting them back.....

....The coffeehouses in the basement of the LCMS Chapel, with some of the best harmonica I've ever heard...

...rejoicing when he took up graduate studies at Marquette, because more Papists would have the chance to corrupt him further...

...laughing when I heard that some of his students thought he was a conservtive Roman Catholic......

...emailing every monastic community with a Web presence when I heard about his illness...

As with any gathering of this nature, I saw people I hadn't seen in years. We shared memories, and even laughed about what Steve was up to now. "Be careful! He might be listening." "Why would he want to listen to us? Besides, he's probably lecturing somebody!" We also thought about how the Choirs of Angels are handling a blues harmonica accompaniment.

After the Vespers service, I came back to Steve's open coffin. "Rest easy, old man. I'll see you later." I patted his hand, hugged his widow, said goodbye to a few others and left.

Rest easy, Steve. I hope to meet you merrily in Heaven.




posted by Dave | 10:12 PM
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