Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: Absences, Death, and Forgiveness

Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: Absences, Death, and Forgiveness

Article excerpt

I've been a Roman Catholic all my life. While many of my boyhood classmates fell off the Catholic bandwagon over the years, I have kept the faith. Like all the great religions of the world, Catholicism has much to offer imperfect souls like me. What distinguishes it from other sects and denominations is something that in the old days we used to refer to as confession. Today it's called reconciliation. Confession or reconciliation is the reason why I will always be a Catholic. "Confession," according to my 1954 Baltimore catechism, "is the telling of our sins to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness."

Confession is apparently the reason why many other people also continue to be Catholics. Each time I go to confession, the lines are long and are filled with older people (like me). I think there is a good reason for this: The older you get the more you think about dying; the more you think about dying, the more you think about meeting your Maker; the more you think about meeting your Maker, the more you think about the condition of your soul. Confession cleanses the soul.

Several months ago in the confessional line, a woman I hadn't seen for some time walked up behind me. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked about her husband Ralph. "Ralph and I are very good friends, but I haven't seen him for a while," I commented. "Where's the old rascal been hiding himself?"

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

She looked at me with shock and replied, "Ralph is dead. Has been dead for eight years--lung cancer. That's why I'm here. I'm still mad at him for leaving me alone. I need forgiveness for being mad at him."

"Oh," I said with great embarrassment. "I do seem to remember hearing something about his death."

Remembering Webb

Not knowing if a person is dead or alive can be quite embarrassing. Several decades ago when I was a young library director, I had a wonderfully supportive trustee named Webb Wilson. My only problem with him was his absence from many of our monthly board meetings due to his love of travel. A retired investment banker with plenty of money to burn, Webb never cared about 21-day, pay-in-advance flight specials. …

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