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In Remembrance of Stephen Dougherty

A poem, "In Remembrance of Stephen Dougherty," by Julie Fitzpatrick.

by Julie Fitzpatrick on May 12, 2021

A poem, "In Remembrance of Stephen Dougherty," by Julie Fitzpatrick: 

I didn’t know you well
But the sight of your soft cotton
sweatshirt brought a smile
beneath my mask - I walked
slowly beside you down the aisle
whispering the Covid instructions:
Sit wherever a pew isn’t marked
by blue tape so we can keep  
distance safely. Thank you.
After a few weeks, they became
Hello Stephen! Good to
see you! And you, you’d say.
And it was.

The bend of your back told me
that you (like many of us) carried
a heavy cross, but despite that -
or perhaps because of it -
You came to church in the rain
You came to church in the sleet
You came to church in the heat
You came to church in the stunning sun
You came to church so the sun could come in,
the holy could help, your cross could be lighter -
(Or at least that’s what I do.)

You were killed last week on a motorcycle.
Here one week and gone the next -
and I’m now writing in a little notebook
in the back of church looking for your
back up there in the pew beside Blanche.
It’s not there and I don’t understand.

The service centers on talk of challah and
tilapia and beautiful music is sung again
but I can’t reach the hallelujah -
I sit here stunned. You struck me as someone
In the middle of your story and now your
struck done.

I heard recently that to die is to
spend endless time in the blessed
embrace of God’s love. I hope that’s true
for you, Stephen - that you know your
presence mattered to an usher in church.
How each of us silently, dutifully, powerfully
holds one another up - often without knowing it. 

Dear God, please take care of him.
I sense you have a devoted soul there.
Tears roll down my cheeks. I have a good
friend - Elizabeth - she’s been in heaven
for a couple of decades and
is very welcoming. Jake mentions
Radical Hospitality and I’m sure she’s
already introduced herself. Made room
for you in her pew.

You came to church in the rain
You came to church in the sleet
You came to church in the heat
You came to church in the stunning sun 

And you’ll be missed in church in every one.

 

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