For the last several weeks, we’d wonder, would we see Clarence at 9:30 Mass for his usual duty as usher. He died Oct. 14. Monday, several hundred of us bade farewell to our friend at Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis.
Two or three months ago, some time after Clarence had told a number of us that a cancer diagnosis was terminal, cards had been distributed to those who wished to congratulate our Pastor, John Bauer, on a significant anniversary. A portion of the photo on the card is below. I looked at the card showing the entire congregation posing, with the altar in the background, and there was our Clarence Birk. (He’s the guy in the blue shirt. The photo is undated, I do remember being at the Church that day).
Monday, Father Bauer wore a blue cassock, rather than the more traditional black – ” blue was Clarence’s favorite color”, he said. He also said that, with Clarence’s death, an era had ended. Clarence spent almost all of his 88 years as part of Basilica of St. Mary; 65 of those years he’d been an usher.
So it went, as we said goodbye to a good friend. Visitation on Monday was at what I call the ‘back’ of the church. I’m sure there is a fancier name. But it was not lost on me that we were gathering to celebrate Clarence’s life at the place where he ushered, it was said, for 65 of his 88 years. There was only one Clarence!
Clarence’s ashes were displayed at the Mary chapel at that same “back of the Church”. In a sense, Clarence was right at home for our farewell:
Everyone who knew Clarence will have their own special memories. He was a common man – but who of us isn’t a common person? But in assorted quiet ways Clarence made a difference in people’s lives. He is at peace. We’re better for having known him. Farewell.
In an earlier post, I talked about Clarence and my affection for him. Here’s what I offered:
“…One especially, though, is my friend Clarence, who was one of the first other than family visitors when I was in intensive care last December. Some months later Clarence, now 88, was diagnosed with advanced cancer – pancreatic, and is certainly close to the end of his time as a friend to so many of us. It won’t be long for him. We haven’t seen him at church for some weeks now. Great, great guy. As I heard a minister eulogize a younger man years ago who’d died in a car accident, Clarence definitely ‘lived before he died’. At 88, he won’t need the rest of that long ago eulogy “died before he was finished”. Clarence has run the race with grace.
[Phone message overnite Oct 14: Clarence Birk has died. Funeral at Basilica of St. Mary on Monday Oct 21 11 a.m. visitation followed by funeral at noon. RIP]
I’ve become fond of saying that “the main cause of death is life“. None of us are “forever young”, whatever the age. Best to live as best we can, one day at a time, giving back in the sundry ways available to us, such as the young lady taking my ‘pitcher’ this morning! Work for a better world.”
from Mary: Thank you for sharing this Mr. Bernard – so thoughtful and touching. He was indeed a good man.
It was nice to talk with you and your wife yesterday.