Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RIP John Michael

13 years ago, as I was just beginning my walk as a Christian, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship forum online.  Through it, I met many good people.  I went to the annual convention.  I wrote about my conversion to Christianity and it was published in a book on UU Christianity.  I eventually left the Unitarian Church and lost touch with most of my UU Christian friends, but over the years, one of the most lasting things was a correspondance with John Michael Keba.  

John was raised as an Eastern Catholic who had explored different faiths, including Unitarianism.  He was a hot head who got into vicious debates with UUs about all kinds of things.  He was a very smart, very fiesty man who eventually got himself banned from the forum.  For a couple of years we didn't connect.  

Then, one day, I knew that I could no longer be a Unitarian.  I began searching for a new church.  A Christian Church.  My search brought me to many Episcopal Churches.  But one Sunday, I decided to visit St. Teresa of Avila, a Catholic Church in Providence.  At the time it was pastored by a wonderful priest name Fr. Ray Tetrault.  I cried through the whole Mass. And though I knew that I wasn't ready to become a Catholic, for the first time I thought that someday, I might end up there. 

On the way home, driving under an overpass on the highway, I remembered John Michael.  I remembered that he was Catholic.  I decided to write him an email telling him that I had visited a Catholic Church.  He relentlessly tried to convince me to join the church.  I resisted.  I wasn't ready and I knew it.  But nevertheless, we continued to email each other, sometimes daily, usually weekly.

Thus began a correspondance that lasted over 10 years.  

The irony was that over the next several years, as I was drawing closer to the Catholic Church, John was leaving it.  He eventually chose the absolute polar opposite and joined the Religious Society of Friends.  And even there, in a faith about peace and quiet and the gentle calling of the spirit, John was a rabble rouser.  He was fiesty and cranky and got into all sorts of trouble, I think.  I believe that he was seeking peace.  He believed in peace.  He yearned for peace.

In some ways, John was actually responsible for my choosing to work at CareNet.  He insisted that if God was calling me, I had no right to refuse.  And if there was doubt about the call, he was having none of it.  John was fiercely pro-life.

Once I started working at CareNet, I would occasionally write to him, especially when things were particularly tough.  I asked for his prayers.  He prayed.  He encouraged, exhorted.  But somehow, after his father died in 2014, our correspondance dwindled. 

This morning, I woke up thinking about him, and for some reason, felt sure that he had died.  I went online and found that yes, indeed, he had died over the Christmas Holidays.  There is no obituary.  No record of his death save for a brief comment on his facebook page.  His extended family didn't even seem to know about it. Fortunately, one of his friends was willing to message me back on Facebook and tell me the story of his passing.  He died alone in his home. He wasn't found for days.  No one seems to know if there is a grave somewhere.  

Dear Jesus,  I pray that John is at rest in your arms.  He was deeply aware of his sins.  He loved you with all his heart.  He was a man who yearned for peace.  The peace that surpasses all understanding.  I pray, my savior, that he is with you.  May his soul rest in your peace forever.