Two important touchstones of my life collided today. With one I bid farewell, with another I celebrated a new beginning.
Last night after two days of power outages I received news of the passing of a dear friend, Jerzy Kluger of Rome. Jerzy, as now many millions know, was the lifelong Jewish friend of Pope John Paul II. While I first met the Holy Father in 1999, I did not meet Jerzy until 2004. But my relationship with him over these last seven years had been so intense I had committed to his wife Irene that I would be an officiant at his funeral when the time came. I missed his passing and I missed his funeral. I was in a remote mountain village in Guatemala watching the birth of new lifelong relationships between our pre-med students and health care in the third world. I had tears in my eyes in the morning as we stood in the triage area when I shared snippets of how Jerzy and the Pope changed the world our students were born into. I had tears again in my eyes in the evening when our students shared some of their difficult moments in encountering where medicine could not fix everything. And I had tears again later in the night when we each shared the nexus of our experiences in Guatemala and our spiritual journeys. Each student and staffer spoke words from the heart that touched everyone.
Today I missed the funeral of a dear friend. That ship has come back safely into the harbor. It was a grand journey but it has come to an honored end. Today I watched as 12 youthful ships sailed out from the safe harbor into turbulent waters for their life voyages. I pray their journeys, too, will be grand and honored. Godspeed Jerzy. Godspeed David, Micayla, Christian, Lia, Jenn, Megan, Mouhamed, Mary, Anna, Mike, Annie and J.D.