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A Different Perspective

Grace and Peace to all!

I would like to share with everyone what happened one year ago Christmas Eve. Many of you in Springfield knew Dan Bartlett. His story is much like mine.

In August, I moved into the apartment building owned by Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield. The building was located on S. 7th street, adjacent to the church. The night before I moved in, I was up late painting and a man who lived in an apartment two floors above me. The person I met was Dan Bartlett. I was 19, he was 49. I grew up just a few miles from where Dan did, in Pike County, IL.

A couple weeks after I moved into the building, Dan was diagnosed with liver cancer. Those of you who knew Dan knew that his life had been hard. His parents divorced when he was a child, leaving his mother struggling to make ends meet. He battled alcoholism and drug addiction. A few years ago, his daughter was murdered in Springfield. He went through a divorce. Everything went wrong, including his health. Dan suffered from diabetes and Hepatitis C.

On October 25, I had coffee at Christ Church, as was my usual morning routine, and then came back to my apartment to get my books and head to class at Springfield College. When I got into the building, I found Dan in front of my door, in urgent need of medical care. Soon, Dan's dearest friends, Robin Cona and Shawn Denney were there. I had called 911 and the ambulance crew was arriving. After spending three days in the hospital, Dan was taken to Capital Care Nursing Home. As the days and weeks passed, Dan and Robin and I grew closer together. Robin became my "Reverend Mother" and Dan often asked, "Where's our boy?" when I was at class and not at the nursing home. Robin and I often spent nights at the nursing home-- almost never leaving him there alone--because Dan had panic attacks. He was beginning to lose motor functions, such as the use of his hands.

This brings us to Christmas Eve 2002. I had the kids singing at Christ Church at the 5 PM Mass. I was planning to head home, but a huge snow storm cancelled my plans. This was a blessing in disguise, because it gave me the opportunity to spring Dan from the nursing home and take him to Midnight Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral.

I got to the nursing home and got Dan dressed. Then, putting a big gouge in the upholstery of my car, I got his wheelchair in, and then finally Dan was in the car. We made our very slow way to the Cathedral and Dan got to hear the choir 30 min. before Mass. The service was beautiful, but bittersweet because it was obvious this was Dan's last Christmas Eve mass, and last time at the Cathedral he loved so dearly. It was one of those moments when everything was surreal, and you could almost swear that you were in heaven.

Earlier in the evening, Robin Cona had a "spiritual battle" with a snow bank and an icy road. She lost. When we greeted Bishop Beckwith after Mass, he showed such concern for her, wanting to know all the details and seeking reassurance that she was alright. "Tell her to be careful and to take care of herself," he said. After most of the folks had left the Cathedral, I began to get Dan loaded up, wheelchair and all. I was tired, cold, and longing to be at home in Pike County. The storm had dumped more snow on us, and my car was covered while we were at Mass. As I had just gotten Dan in the car, I saw someone brushing the snow and scraping the ice off my car. I looked back to find a gentleman in a purple shirt clearing my windshield. "Be sure to get the engine going so Dan doesn't get cold," said the Bishop.

Moments of grace and kindness always take me by surprise, and this was no exception. Bishop Beckwith was showing that he cared, and that meant a great deal to me and to Dan. Bishop Beckwith later gave me a Lay Eucharistic Minister's license in order to take daily communion to Dan from the daily Mass at St. Paul's---even though it is not usually permissible to have people from outside of the diocese licensed to do this.

Dan died in February, full of love and devotion to Jesus. Bishop Beckwith held a special place in Dan's heart because of his kindness to us.

I know that others among you have stories like this. Please share. In the heat of a highly political moment it is all to easy to bash those with whom we disagree. Maybe our little branch of the Catholic faith wouldn't be in such dire condition if we would all show a little bit of Christian compassion towards one another on all sides of the fence.

In Christ,

Jonathon Moyers
Grace Episcopal Church
Clarksville, Missouri

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