Thursday, August 23, 2007

Grief, and awe

My associate priest, Rob Roy Rhudy, died yesterday afternoon. He was in his late 70's, had been battling bone cancer, and was overtaken by congestive heart failure.

He was a soft-spoken, gentle soul, with the driest sense of humor on the planet. Easter before last, I was serving. I was wearing an alb, and carrying a torch (candle). We sing a really rousing closing song on Easter; I forgot what I was wearing, and what I was holding, and clapped my hands--thus getting wax all over me.

I was slinking around, looking for an Altar Guild member to confess to, when I bumped into Rob. I asked him, "Now what should I do?" He answered me quietly and completely deadpan, save for a twinkle in his eye:
"Well, you're going to hell now."

We all loved him. I'm working this summer at a retreat center 70 miles from San Francisco, and couldn't participate in the vigil that my community kept for him. But everyone who reported back to me told me that he was surrounded by love. People from church took two-hour shifts, around the clock, to be with him. Our harpist played for him. The Franciscan brothers, with whom he lived, were with him. His nieces were with him.

Last night, after he died, friends gathered at one of their houses. They connected me by speaker phone, and we all read Compline for Rob. This impulse to pray--and their desire to figure out a way to include me after I sobbed on the phone that I needed people to pray with--is a piece of the love we all share. That same love that celebrated with me last weekend at our parish retreat (which happened where I work), when I got up and told a story to all of them, completely confidently and without ever once tripping over my mouth.

I know what lifted Rob as he left us. And I know that same beam of light would be focused on any of us in a millisecond, if we needed it.

I remain in awe.


Mimi said...

I'm so sorry. May his Memory be Eternal.

Luiz Coelho said...


Do please tell at St. Aidan's that the Brazilian Franciscans of the Divine Providence Convent will pray for the repose of Fr. Rob's soul at St. John's Parish Church Sunday Mass (its rector is a first-order Franciscan) this Sunday.

For a thousand reasons this has been an awful day for me and when I read the news through gmail notifier (a friend of mine here who is a franciscan sent it to me) I got very sad and sensitive. It happens that my significant other is also Rob, and is also Fr. Rob, and is also in the US right now, and when I read the message on your Fr. Rob's death, I felt as if my beloved one was dying.

I'm not even sure why I'm writing this, but unexplainably I'm sharing your pain.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Kirstin said...

Thank you, Luiz. I've forwarded this to my rector, and I'll make sure it gets announced on Sunday.

I'm glad you wrote. (((hug)))

lj said...

Blessings on his dear soul and on all who love him, including you.

eileen said...

I'm so sorry Kirstin.

Add my prayers to the others for the loss of your beloved Fr. Rob.

And (((((Luiz))))) - Write me if you need to sweetie.

Clinton said...

I am really sorry to hear about this lost not only to St. Aidan's, but for the Diocese as well. He will be missed by all.

Kirstin said...

Thank you, everyone.