Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflections On The Funeral Of A Senior Saint: RIP Bill Hughes

Fr. Dale Matson

Bill Hughes (December 8, 1931-August 29, 2013) was a member of our congregation (St. James) for fifty years. During that time he served in almost every capacity available to a lay person. He would have celebrated his fifty ninth wedding anniversary later this month. He and his wife Joyce had a son and daughter and two grandsons. He was a Korean War Veteran and worked for the same company (New England Sheet Metal) for over 50 years until his illness necessitated leaving. He was also in leadership positions in professional organizations in the sheet metal industry. As they say, “The cream always rises to the top.” Bill was diagnosed with cancer last August and had been under treatment. He lost his battle and passed on within hours of being admitted to hospice care.

Of course this is more about his life than his death. Bill is another example of a life lived for Christ and a race well run. His life was a living Epistle as St. Paul would say. Our church air conditioner could not “catch up” on a hot Fresno day and we ran out of bulletins. These were also a testament to his many friends and family. Bill’s last assignment at our church was head usher. This is a tight fellowship and they were all in attendance. Bill had recruited, trained and supervised all of them.

Bill wore a surgical mask for the last months of his life because of a compromised immune system brought on by his cancer treatment. I thought about it every time I offered him Christ’s Body during the Eucharist. He was taking a risk but the importance of the Eucharist for his spiritual life superseded his life in the flesh as he fought his battle with cancer.

As each year passes, there are less people like Bill. He and his generation is the end of an era. We are losing so many like him now. How many people make a career of one job? How many people remain in one marriage for nearly sixty years? How many people remain in one congregation for fifty years? There is a Godly quality listed in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), that emerges. It is faithfulness. Faithfulness is the hallmark of the true Christian life.  Faithfulness also means fidelity, as in marriage. Bill demonstrated a lifelong commitment to those things God had provided. He loved his family, his church and his vocation.

We will miss you my brother but as we say in our prayers of the people, (Rite I, page 330) And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear especially Bill Hughes, beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love
and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. Amen


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