Why One Version of the 23rd Psalm stands out to me more than most…

I linked to the Marty Haugen version entitled Shepherd Me O God in this post.

Not quite 20 years ago this past Monday, my mother’s best friend’s husband went home to God. He had had a battle with kidney cancer that was one for the ages. And he left behind a grieving widow, two young sons and many who loved him and mourned his loss.

Tim was soft-spoken and kind-hearted. He was a good husband and father. He was intelligent. He had a PhD in Chemistry but mostly, he just liked to be around his family and friends. His wife, my mother’s best friend Margaret, was as out-going and boisterous as Tim was quiet and reserved. She still is. They met at mass during the Sign of Peace.

And at his funeral, the Marty Haugen version of the 23rd Psalm was sung. On his tombstone, Margaret had put “My spirit will sing the music of Your name.” It was the first funeral I had ever attended. We sat with Margaret and her family. My mother, a nurse, had spent Tim’s last days sleeping on the floor of Margaret and Tim’s bedroom with Margaret in the bed and Tim in a hospital bed. We had spent Tim’s last Christmas, with Mass in their home. A transformer blew and we celebrated by candlelight. Just hearing the Psalm brings back so many memories of that time. I was on a retreat when he passed. I knew he was going to leave the world that weekend, but my parents insisted I go. Tim would have insisted I go. When I returned, my parents greeted me with hugs and tears. I knew it was over.

About the time Tim had passed, I had been listening to a talk on St Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the fruits of the spirit. In the days that would follow, it became clear to me the Holy Spirit planned that one out. And I thought on it a lot as I sang the refrain with the cantor at his funeral mass. One of my brothers and my mom eulogized Tim. My father and that same brother were pall-bearers. An old priest from the parish returned to con-celebrate the mass. People I had not seen in years came. People from Tim’s childhood in California flew out as did friends from his graduate school days in NY and Wisconsin. Co-workers. Parish members. Neighbors. For a quiet guy, Tim had affected many lives. Even the boys’ pediatrician came.

Tim’s gentle demeanor and quiet ways made him a shepherd. He made sure his boys attended mass and were kind and courteous to others. He drew people in with a more reserved kind of friendliness and easy-going manner. He did not let his intellect nor his accomplishment change who he was. And in his passing, the number of people he shepherded in his life, came back to thank him, and help shepherd him into the next one.

Over the years, I have been reminded of the loss of Tim in this life. His name was listed on the back of our wedding program as someone not physically there to share in the joy of our day. And each time I hear Shepherd Me O God, I am reminded of the gift of having him be a shepherd in my life. And of how I want to shepherd others.

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