Robert was a friend. I met him first via Facebook, before ever meeting him in person. Later we would meet through the ministry of healing. He had a great online presence, and connected with many people that way.
Presence and gratitude are two realities that make me think of Robert the most. You could feel he was present to you in a conversation, but he also brought a deep awareness of God’s presence with him. We would meet for coffee, sometimes before the Thursday healing service in Christ Church when he was the celebrant, sometimes in town. A few years ago I was going through a deep healing of a painful memory, and Robert was among those who knew about it. A significant moment on my journey of healing happened and I was grateful to God. I remembered how Jesus said to ten lepers, “Go and show yourself to the priest” (Luke 17:14). In my case, I wanted to share what happened to a priest as a sign of my thanksgiving to God. I was meeting Robert for coffee and decided he was going to be the priest. I also asked him for anointing and he brought the oil with him to a coffee shop. It was easy to be real with Robert because he was real. There was nothing of pretence about him. After a deep conversation in the coffee shop, Robert anointed me, which was a support and a blessing to continue on the journey of healing. And even among coffee-cups, God was present.
In Christ Church Cathedral, during the healing Eucharist, Robert often prayed in thanksgiving about his journey with cancer. Not many of us would know how to give thank for things that are humanly difficult, but Robert had an insight that this journey brought him closer to God, deeper into his true self and closer to others too. Now that Robert is gone to be with the Father in Heaven, I think I will often associate Thursday healing Eucharist with Robert’s prayers of thanksgiving. This is very fitting in that prayerful context as ‘eucharisteo’ in Greek means ‘to give thanks’.
I have to admit, I will miss Robert. Many of us will. If you are reading this and you are not a family member or a close friend, I want to give you a permission to grieve. If tears come, let them. I was thinking of him last week on the bus going home, and I cried. This does not mean we don’t believe that Robert lived for God and has returned to God. It means that his presence here on earth meant a lot to us. Sometimes we acknowledge it by recalling a memory, sometimes with a few tears.
Both Robert and myself were inspired by St John of the Cross and found great comfort in his teaching on the dark night. It is counter-intuitive to think that difficulties in life can bring a deep healing to our soul. And yet, it is the nature of Jesus’ cross and resurrection that God lets Himself be found when we least expect it. Robert lived in such a way that he found God in all of his experiences. At his funeral it was said how he learned to live in the moment. We have so much to learn from Robert. Also at the funeral there was a five minute silence after the Holy communion, which I am sure Robert asked for. It is through silence that we connect with God and allow Him to enter our reality. Robert was teaching us this even in his death.
Thank you for your friendship, Robert. Jesus told us, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:2). I pray Robert enjoys exploring those that are in the fullness of God’s presence in Heaven, and until we meet again may he RIP.
Condolences to his family and friends on behalf of the Church’s Ministry of Healing: Ireland.
(The picture is taken from Robert’s Facebook page as his latest profile picture)