That which we take for granted, often disappears.

 

One of my all-time favorites is dead. Glen Campbell, known for his well over six-decade career, winning four Grammys and selling over 45 million records, died yesterday morning. He touched many of us who loved him with his romantic and sentimental country-pop hits, driven by his smooth tenor, and a touch of that twangy guitar! His memorable hits included “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Southern Nights,” “Try A Little Kindness,” and “Galveston.” But for me, the most moving was his last composition, released in 2014 and produced with the help of his friend, Julian Raymond, entitled, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” It was Campbell’s most intimate song and it chronicled the great singer’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis he announced to the public back in 2011.

He wrote this final song for his loving wife, Kim. The ballad’s devastating lyrics detail Campbell’s struggle with the illness, but juxtaposed with the music video, which utilizes personal home video and performance footage from throughout Campbell’s life, the result is a truly poignant experience.
 
To compose this song, Raymond kept a journal of things Campbell said to him, which formed the basis for the lyric. Campbell had input on the words and melody, but Raymond guided him through the process. The song ended up capturing Campbell’s fleeting thoughts, even as his memory failed. The song was recorded in 2013 after Campbell completed his final tour.
 
For me, the most poignant aspect of this song is how it applies to all of life. We really do not know what we have until it is taken away, or we willingly walk away in our brokenness, without ever trying to keep the pearl we found.
 
In as many weeks, two priests that we know have announced the closing of their parishes. It has been a devastatingly emotional week for one, whom I spoke to yesterday. It always saddest to me when a parish is forced to close due to the inability to afford the needed expenses. There simply is no reason for it. After all, we live in a world where we think nothing of paying thousands of dollars for a flight to Europe, upwards of $4 for a latte at Starbucks every morning on our way to work, but still we only ‘tip’ God a measly $5 bucks when we attend a place to worship Him. The airlines, coffee companies, and vacation destinations get millions a year; God gets a tip.
 
Even here at Saint Miriam, we have had people walk away in their own ‘stuff’, as they blame us for their lot in life, even though – in reality – they put themselves ahead of God. We have had people fail to honor their building pledges, never sign up for giving, and not even think of adding their name to such wonderful projects that we have accomplished, and yet take full advantage of all the we have created. It seems that in our modern-day society, God comes only when we want God, and only on our terms, and with discount at that. We fail to sacrifice anymore for God, our holy Church, or the world at large. We always come first.
 
I sat in a Marriage PREP/PreCana session last Saturday for several hours. I listened intently as couples shared their joy of finding one another. Their stories were replete with the allure of one another, the attraction, the funny things that happened along the way, and their discovery of the strong desire to marry. It is always an exciting time! Then, one couple asked me the million-dollar question! “Father, how do we stay together for the rest of our lives in a world where divorce is so high?”  
 
I explained to them that the national divorce rate actually peaked in the 1980’s at about 42%, but has been declining ever since. The still very difficult statistic, however, is that every new marriage still has only about a 50% chance of lasting ten years. Why? Because we are never encouraged to put ourselves in any other positon but first, and marriage is always about the other.
 
I have learned a few things as a priest, but more so as a man: the grass is rarely greener on other side of the fence, great things take great sacrifice, it is always best to ‘stay in the water’ rather than abandon people who loved and cared for you, there are no short cuts to happiness, we will never agree on everything, but we love still, and in the end, when our life is about done, we desire not things, but the people who loved us the most, and a God who will love us as we are.
 
If someone journaled my life, as they did Glen Campbell, I know Saint Miriam would be listed among the places I loved most. A short, but most meaningful line, I often say at wedding ceremonies is apropos to end my message today,
 
Do not take each other for granted, for that which we take for granted, often disappears.”
 

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