Yesterday morning, I learned that my dear friend John Palenberg had died the Monday evening. In October (while I was on Camino), John had emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor; the diagnosis was glioblastoma – one of those things that rarely, if ever, comes with a good prognosis.
I am heartbroken, as are all of John’s many friends. (Also still a bit in shock; none of us expected the disease to progress quite this quickly.) I have shed many tears in the last twenth-four hours and doubtless will shed many more. John was one of the kindest, gentlest, funniest, amazing people in the world, and was a wonderful husband and father to his wife and two children. (He was also an incredibly intelligent and phenomenal lawyer.) He will be sorely missed.
John was a man of deep Christian faith. He and I spoke on the phone a few weeks ago about our confidence in the Resurrection. He told me he had no fear of death, because he knew death is not the end of life.
I thought of that conversation John and I had when I came across this piece yesterday written by Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918; canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral). I think John might have written something similar.
DEATH is nothing at all.
I have only slipped into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone,
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just round the corner.
All is well.
John: Rest in peace, my dear friend. My life is the richer – and always will be – because of your presence in it. Love, S.J.