Language of the heart

Today was a great day. It was a mix of many emotions as we celebrated the life of a good friend and bid him goodbye too. A few days ago Sister Death came to take my friend Paul to his eternal reward. Today we gathered first at the funeral home, later in St. Joseph’s Maronite Catholic Church in Olean, then St. Bonaventure Cemetery and finally a nice luncheon at EB’s Restaraunt in the village of Allegany. I loved Paul. He was a friend, a mentor, and a champion rolled into one.

Today as the bag piper played and we carried his coffin into St. Joe’s and emotion surfaced I thought of my friend and his life that touched so many of us. I met him almost thirty years ago on a street corner in Olean. What happened to the last thirty years. Time is fleeting. In that span I got to know him well and we shared many good times and great insights. A few years ago Paul and his wife Doris joined St. Joseph’s after the Diocese of Buffalo closed their home parish of St. John the Baptist in Vandalia, NY.

I’d never been to a Maronite Catholic Mass until today. I loved listening to Fr. Joseph Akiki as he blessed Paul and us with incense and his words. There were many memorable moments in the service but one of them was the consecration when Fr. Joseph intoned what sounded like Aramaic, the language of Jesus as he blessed the bread and wine. I spoke with him in EB’s Restaraunt later and asked him about the blessing and he assured me it was in Aramaic or more correctly Syriac which he said was the language of Christ. I felt a strong presence of Christ in that church today as we said farewell to our friend Paul and heard the lovely Syriac words from Fr. Joe.