The Passing of a Devoted Dad

Jefferson and his children.

On Sunday morning just before the Pohnpeian mass I say each week, I stopped to greet Jefferson, the man who has regularly stood at the door to welcome any and all into the church. “You look very thin,” I told him. It had been a few weeks since I had last seen him. “Cancer,” he said, “in the head, stomach and chest.”

Once vested, I processed to the altar following a line of young servers, most of them Jefferson’s children, with his oldest son, in his early 20s, in the lead. He’s the one who prepares the altar, holds the missal, and handles all those small but important tasks throughout the mass.

The next day I received a sudden phone call informing me that Jefferson had been brought to the hospital on an emergency run. I planned to visit him as soon as I had finished my office duty and the house blessing scheduled for that morning. But, as it turned out, I was too late. Someone called around noon to let me know that he had died just a few minutes earlier.

When I got to the viewing room, there was Jefferson laid out in his Sunday best. The body was surrounded by a dozen kids, nearly all of them in their teens and  most of them his own children. They sobbed softly and nuzzled their dad as I read the prayers of blessing.

With their father gone, the children were now orphans. Their mother had died a few years earlier. I remember visiting her in the hospital and then celebrating the funeral mass a few days later. As difficult as her loss must have been for her husband, he remained steadfast in  caring for his family and nurturing their faith. Whenever I saw him, I was reminded of my own dad and all he did for us after mom passed away.

His eight children, most still in school, have an aunt and uncle living with them. They are great kids, these altar servers, but they face difficult times.

Right now, the family has to somehow gather the money they need to pay off the hospital and the funeral home. I offered them my contribution, and I would be very grateful if you would be willing to join me in making a donation to this needy family in this dark hour.

You could send your offering directly to me, and I’ll turn it over to the family.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.