08 June 2011

In Memoriam: Joe Taylor

Hell he lived right across the street, I probably saw the guy once or twice a day for three years without ever exchanging a word. He would wave but that was about it. I thought he was one of the meanest guys around, it was the husky voice and the wide shoulders I suppose. And to beat all he would sit out in his front yard and wait till the church yard sale was over to rummage through the "treasures" we left on the curb. The nerve of the guy.

Then one day, after a yard sale to be exact, he walked up to me and inquired, "Hey Father, what time is mass tomorrow?" Normally I would have corrected him and said please call me Travis and it is worship not mass - but those times were over. I simply said, 10:00am. At 10:00am the next morning he showed up in his church sport coat, and he never left. After a few Sundays he stopped genuflecting, then he stopped making the sign of the cross, and finally he stopped wearing his church sport coat. He simply relaxed, he sang hymns, he laughed, he prayed, he read scripture, he was Joe - it was like he had always been there - across the street he always had been. Joe and his wonderful quickly became friends.

One day some guys from the church cleared some land around the outdoor chapel, the brush sat there for a few months drying out. One wet Spring day we decided to light it. There was Joe, and Jon, some cold beer, and fire - what more could guys want? Then the school janitor came over complained that the smoke was being sucked in by the school's heating system - but no one believed him. A little later Randy appeared to show off his car, then Jason swung by, then every cotton picking kid on Great Road. It was one of the best days of my life.

We started talking about art. He showed me some sketches, then he showed me his work shop, then he showed me the totem poles. He was an artist in the true sense of the word, word made flesh, art that was embodied with his bear paws for hands, for the love he showered on his kids and wife, for the greatest laugh in all of New England, for the way he put you at ease, for just being Joe - and doing a damn good job of it.

In divinity school they always said do not get too close to your parishioners but how could you not with Joe? He taught me to be open, honest, and loving to those I serve. I am thankful that I was able to be a friend of Joe Taylor. He was a great man.

When news of the cancer came I couldn't believe it. Joe Taylor was a mighty man, no way cancer would get him. But it did. I tried to block the similarities out of my mind but I could not. Nearly five years ago my father died of esophageal cancer. He too was a mighty man. But dad was older; not a young man in the prime of his life. So what do I wish now? I wish my father's friends would call me and tell me stories about my dad. I wish people from his past would look me up to say hello.

To the sons of Joe Taylor I promise to tell you every Joe Taylor story I can remember, hear of, or find. I promise to call you up on peculiar days just to tell you how lucky I was to know your dad and call him my friend. I promise to tell you how sweet the sound was when he played Amazing Grace on his fiddle over the phone. I promise to tell how your father grew bigger and better tomatoes than me. And I'll tell you how when I called to talk about him and the cancer or when I dropped by to see him a few weeks ago he didn't want to talk about cancer, he wanted to talk about you all.

till grace lead us home. Peace be with you Joe Taylor.


B.Rogers said...

Telling children stories of their departed parent is a
life-sustaining thought.
Bill Rogers

Woody said...

I think I would have liked Joe.