. . . that the Lord needs reinforcements in Heaven. I have to note the passing of two more people who have been part of my life.
I'd heard last week that my high school classmate, Steve Dorn, passed away over the previous weekend. Steve had an interesting journey in his life. I met him in high school and while we weren't close friends, we were friendly during our time at XHS. During his high school years he had to endure some behavior that bordered on the cruel. Steve was overweight, had a high-pitched voice and liked disco music. That wasn't exactly the winning social template in the late 1970s in Appleton, Wisconsin and he got a lot of crap from certain precincts. After he graduated, he went into the Navy and served with distinction there. Eventually he opened and operated one of the best restaurants in Appleton, called The Willow, and he was pretty successful at it. But along the way, Steve developed substance abuse problems that had him in and out of recovery various times. The toll it took on his health was noticeable the last time I saw him, which was about 9 years ago, but I was quite surprised to hear that he had passed away. Steve was the kind of guy who wanted to make people happy and while his high school years might have been tough, he'd earned a lot of respect among his classmates for the successes he had with The Willow. He was only 46 years old.
This afternoon I learned that Fr. Michael O'Rourke, the longtime pastor at my old parish, St. Mary's, died from complications of a head injury after he fell in his driveway last weekend. Fr. Mike had been pastor at St. Mary's since 1986, but since I had moved away from Appleton some time before I'd only dealt with Fr. Mike a few times. One of these times was crucial, though – he presided over my mother's funeral in 2000. He spent a lot of time with my family in the week between my mother's death and her funeral and his evident concern for our family made a huge difference in getting all of us through that terrible time. Clergymen have to preside over funerals and help loved ones as a matter of course; since they have to undertake this sort of thing all the time, it must be tempting for a minister to phone it in. Fr. Mike could have done that, but he didn't. Although I don't know for sure, it's highly likely that Fr. Mike presided over the funeral of Dave Balliet, my 7th grade teacher that I discussed earlier this month; Dave's funeral happened two days before Fr. Mike's accident. And now Fr. Mike is gone, too.
As much as we try, we are utterly incapable of understanding God's will. What I do know is that Steve Dorn and Fr. Mike, like Dave Balliet and John Kunstman before them, were faithful servants. They were men who understood that doing only what is necessary won't make the world a better place and each in his own way made a lasting contribution. While I am saddened that all four of these men have left this world so soon, I rejoice in the knowledge that they are now in a better place.