By Jack Sheedy
Hello, it’s me. Out of character. That character being Thomas J. McSheey, my alter-ego.
I’ve written about McSheey many, many, many times over the past six years – and I’m sure his exploits will remain part of my blog canon going forward. I’ve grown to know him so well that I feel like we’ve become interchangeable. In fact, we share many of the same interests, habits, and phobias. It’s like he’s me, and I’m him.
For instance, take McSheey’s interest in time travel. He has travelled back and forth – into the future and returning to the present – more than a few times in this blog. I’ve had a couple of brief time travel episodes myself. Once, back in college, I saw the future clear as if it were today (maybe it was today). The future was quite bright. Meaning it was more than adequately lit, yet without any apparent light source. And there was a perpetual background noise. Kind of soothing, yet again, without any apparent source. The sights and sounds of progress, I imagine. By the way, the future is very clean. Like someone just vacuumed the whole place with some futuristic vacuum cleaner. Almost as clean as the Montreal subway system.
In terms of habits, like McSheey I must admit to being superstitious in some facets of my life. For instance, when walking from my car to the front door of my place of employment I always carry my briefcase with my left hand, with the zipper of the case pointing outward. When I smoke my pipe, I always hold it in my right hand. When I drive I use both hands, positioned at ten and two o’clock, unless I’m driving out in the Midwest, in which case I drive at nine and one o’clock to account for the time change.
And as for phobias, I do suffer from social anxiety. And I’m afraid of clowns. So, if I ever find myself at a clown convention I’ll be rendered both terrified and socially awkward at the same time.
McSheey and I, we are both Roman Catholic and yet we are both scientifically-minded, which means we wrestle with how religion and science can co-exist when they seem to be at odds with each other. We agree that God does exist and that He was the impetus which set the wheels of the universe in motion, and out of that Creation came into being the galaxies, and the suns, and the planets, and some 14 billion years later, Homo sapiens. And here we are, trying to figure out how we all fit into the grand cosmic scheme. We look to the great figures throughout history for understanding – Abraham, Moses, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, St. Peter, St. John, St. Paul, George, Ringo – yet questions only lead to further questions.
Why did this universe, which God created so long, long, long ago, eventually lead to our being? Perhaps we as a species have evolved to this point only to be able to ask the question, “Why are we here?” By asking the question we have thus, ultimately, reached our potential. The answer is in the questioning.
Or, perhaps we are here merely to attend weddings and funerals.
Weddings and funerals seem to mark the march of time throughout one’s life. It marks the ebb and flow of our lives, and of the lives of those around us. Through the course of a person’s life there is a time of weddings, and a time of funerals, and then a time when weddings of a later generation and the funerals of an earlier generation happen concurrently. As one gets older, each ceremony becomes more meaningful as we accumulate life experiences.
Over the past few years I’ve been to many wakes and funerals. Some for people who were young, relatively speaking, and taken before their time. And some for people who had lived a full and rich life and were heading off to their great reward. Some funerals were sad. And some were celebrations. And through them all, we are there to bear witness. To console. To rejoice. To eulogize. To pray.
In my position at a local rest home, I have watched as numerous “old friends” slipped the tethers of earth for the infinite light of the hereafter. I am always honored to be there at the end of their earthly life, and to wish them well as they begin their next journey. I have ushered in and out of churches, hugged the grieving, and smiled with them upon their loved one’s accomplishments.
But, it can become a strain, this occupation on the cusp of the eternal. Friendships are made, and then end.
That is why I am rather excited at the prospect of attending as a witness an upcoming wedding – or rather, a renewal of wedding vows – at the local Catholic Church in South Yarmouth in mid-May. I’ve attended various ceremonies at a number of the local RC Churches over the years – weddings, funerals, and christenings in West Harwich, Brewster, Hyannis, and at South Yarmouth – and at churches of other denominations: Episcopal, Congregational, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and UU. Through it all, in happiness and in sadness, parishioners are there to bear witness.
With all that this life offers, and with all the questions it leaves unanswered, and with the realization that the hereafter lies just beyond our final step, there is a certain comfort in knowing that occasionally we can all gather together in happy times to attend a wedding, perhaps to eat a meal together afterwards, and to look ahead toward the future with an optimistic glance. Maybe that’s what life is all about.
Well, that and sharing your home with a dog.
Jack Sheedy is the author of six books, including Cape Odd and Cape Cod Harvest. He is also Director of Community Relations & Activities at a local rest home.