Remembering with Gratitude: A Life Well-Lived

Abbot David Nicholas Geraets, OSB
March 4, 1935-March 2, 2012

Entered St. Benedict’s Abbey, Benet Lake Wisconsin
Made monastic profession – September 1, 1957
Ordained to the priesthood – September 29, 1962
Baptized by the Holy Spirit – November 1967 and began 
ministry to the charismatic renewal.
Elected First Abbot of Pecos Monastery – April 11, 1973
Abbatial Service – 1973-1992
Conventual Prior in San Luis Obispo 1992-2012
I’m fumbling around for the right earrings.

Packing an overnight bag for a short trip.
My fingers trip and tangle,
the jewelry falls on the counter,
and I feel the tears behind my eyes.
Looking up into the mirror,
I ask myself:
“What does one wear to a wake?
To a Resurrection Mass for a priest,
an abbot,
a mentor,
a friend?
What do I wear?”
And the answer comes,
“Wear your heart.”
And I pack it right up,
 lay it in the suitcase,
next to the small jewelry box,
the St. Benedict medal on its chain,
the clear colors he always noticed,
the small, ordinary pieces of an everyday life.
Because that’s all I’ve got, isn’t it?
This heart full of memories,
of words heard and received,
of sweet smiles and heartfelt prayers and gentle marks of the cross.
We drive north,
this drive we’ve taken together for almost two years now.
Ever since my health scare and hospitalization in May of 2010, my husband has chosen to make this trip with me each month. 
He takes long walks up and down the steep driveway of the monastery while I sit in the Holy Spirit House with the abbot.
We’ve both come to love this day-long venture together.
And I wonder as the wheels turn and the miles slide by,
will this be the last time?
 And I wonder,
is this really why we’re going today?
To say good-bye?
We choose to stay overnight at the coast, 
15 minutes from the mortuary and the church.
A good, good choice for us ocean people.
Just walking on the bluffs in the warm wind, 
it blows courage into our souls.
We get there early,
the mortuary where the vigil will be held.
Because that, I learn, is what a monastic wake is all about.
It’s a time for call and response singing and reading,
for sharing memories and stories,
for keeping vigil with one another
on the eve of the final good-bye.
A short, strong nun leads the sung part of our prayer time.
And she is gifted, so gifted.
Gracious, confident, calling us to join the song with the lifting of her arms. 
I relax into the music, letting the Spirit sink deep. 
The brothers read lines from St. Gregory about St. Benedict.
We sing the “Sucsipe” – the song sung by every Benedictine priest at the time of vows and renewal of vows:
“Receive me, O Lord, 
as you have promised
and I shall live.
Do not disappoint me in my hope.” 
Can I just tell you how deeply
and strongly
my soul and spirit resonate with this kind of worship?
Simple melodies,
heartfelt words,
the ability to be silent without tension.
Too many churches in my life do not know how to do silence. At all.
These warmhearted, generous Catholic friends?
They know how.

And the next day, it is the same.
This time a formal Resurrection Mass,
complete with the presiding Bishop of the diocese and a trailing line of priests from all kinds of places,
sitting together, joining their voices throughout the litany.
“A motley crew,” the bishop named them.
And they are that.
But I think perhaps these are a brave crew, too.
Standing and singing and praying together for a departed friend.

The same nun leads the singing, serving as cantor extraordinaire.
The scriptures are chosen from those David loved – 
the Shepherd’s psalm
(which we sing and I am undone, just undone),
Habakkuk 3 – the vision will come…wait for it
Revelation 21 – behold, I make all things new…
John 3 – unless you be born from above…

And his friend and partner in work, 
Father Ray Roh preaches a magnificent memorial sermon.
I am blessed, grateful, aware that this was not an easy task to take.
Communion is moving, as it always is.
All stand, in prayer and attention, until each person is served.
And we sing, we sing.

New to this world of Catholic gatherings, 
we assumed a 2:00 service would be followed by a reception of desserts, to which we happily contributed a big bowl of beautiful fresh berries and some cookie bars.
Oh, no.
A full lunch spread – gorgeous and yummy looking.
Except, of course, we had eaten lunch.
So we watched and listened and felt the love vibrating throughout the Parish Hall.
And then we washed out our bowl,
loaded the car
and headed home.
Encouraged, exhausted, fed.
Grateful, grieving, content in a strange and satisfying way.
 We are left marveling that we 
never knew such richness existed in this Catholic space,
that we were so narrow in our view of life, 
of worship,
of God.
And the simple, haunting melody of that psalm,
that’s what we each remembered,
that’s what we continue to draw on.
Here is a YouTube version of Marty Haugen’s beautiful liturgical rendition of Psalm 23.
The response comes first – to teach the congregation.
Then the verses, followed by the response each time. 
Watch, savor, listen, SING:
 All I can say,
all I can sing,
all I can pray is  
We’re heading out of town for a while in the morning. I hope to have a chance to link this with Michelle at “Graceful” and with Jen at “Finding Heaven.” But I’ll publish it now and link to it on Facebook in case I can’t find reliable internet service while we’re away.
Thanks to so many of you for your kind words, your support and encouragement and your prayers. Oh, most definitely, your prayers. 
I also tagged onto both Laura’s this week – Barkat at “Seedlings in Stone,” and Boggess at “The Wellspring,” and at Ann Voskamp’s Wednesday round-up. And today, I’ll tag in at Bonnie’s place as she’s taking six weeks off to finish her book! And at “Journey to Ephiphany,” who has so kindly taken on Emily Weirenga’s weekly log-in:”JourneyTowardsEpiphany”

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  1. Do you know i have always wanted to go to that monastery?  i mean, it is only 5 minutes away from me… but i just haven’t done it.  how interesting that you go there often.  i really need to make a point to do it.  only, having read of this wonderful man who has gone home, i am saddened that i missed my chance to meet him.  what a beautiful beautiful tribute you have here.  maybe soon we can worship there together?

  2. Praying for you as you celebrate the life that was such an important part of yours.  What an uplifting, heartfelt post for those who grieve with you.  If you can’t get internet access, I’ll be glad to link this for you Monday night.

  3. Diana Trautwein says

    Thanks so much, Jen. We’re going to a friend’s condo and there is supposed to be reliable service. But if you don’t see me, then link away.

  4. Diana Trautwein says

    Their small chapel is lovely and they have a nice small bookstore, too – operates on the honor system! The school for spiritual directors usually worships there midway in our 2 week course work/life in community. That will be the last weekend of July. Other than that, I haven’t worshiped there – only gone for direction. But others do – there some oblates and locals who come. They hold mass daily. The website is sort of antiquated, but it does list times for prayer and worship. Nice to see  you here, Amy. Been wondering how you’re doing with your seven sweet little ones!

  5. Jimhalvorsen says

    Beautiful – Moving – Inspiring – Renewing. 
    Blessings on your time away.
    Sending our love and appreciation, J&J

  6. Glenda Childers says

    This piece is so beautiful Diana, and touched me deeply, as today is my sweet mom’s birthday and she has been with Jesus for over six years. At her memorial service, one of my brothers said, “It is going really well for my mom right now.” Because she was a good and faithful servant.

    That is what I think, tonight about your sweet friend. It is going really well for him right now.

    And maybe he is rejoicing with my mom.

    Thank you for sharing this deeply personal moment with us.

    Praying with you as you grieve.

    Your friend,

  7. Diana Trautwein says

    Oh, Glenda – these anniversaries are so hard – sweet, but hard. Yes, I am counting on it going very well indeed for Abbot David, your mom and all those we know and love who have joined the company of ‘the saints in light.’ And I hope they are rejoicing together – that would make me smile a lot. Thanks for your kind and gentle words, friend.

  8. Diana Trautwein says

    Thank you J & J – we’re heading to the desert for a few days, we’ll catch some of the tennis tournament there and just unwind and enjoy the warmth and beauty of that place in almost-spring.

  9. This has touched me deeply. Prayers for the memories that will live with you.

  10. Thank you for telling me that, Susan. It was a touching day – deeply so. And thank you for your prayers as well. I have been aware of the prayers of many during this hard time. I ask them especially for the members of his community, who must do some serious re-organizing, re-thinking, re-considering. 

  11. Oh, thank you for sharing this beauty–this love–Diana. Sitting in silence for Abbot David. Sending love.

  12. Thanks for coming by to join me in the beauty and the love and the silence, Laura. Thank you.

  13. A beautiful account of Christ meeting you in the midst of loss. And finding joy amidst the grief. I think this is how it should really be.

  14. Diana Trautwein says

    I think you’re right, Shelly. I’m grateful for the joy in the midst, too. And I’m grateful that the joy does not cancel the grief, because I think grieving well is essential, don’t you?

  15. Hi Diana. 🙂 I love silence. And although I believe that we can pray and worship amidst the noise going on in our lives, I would like to retreat to a quiet, peaceful place to be with God. Because I feel His presence more and I find myself more receptive of His message in silence.

    Thank you so much for sharing such an inspiring post, Diana. Your words blessed me today. Take care and God bless! 🙂


  16. I  felt peace as I followed you through your day in my heart.  What blessing to find in a mentor.  I hope you can remember the wisdom, even if now your heart has an empty space.  Thank you for sharing this journey.


  17. Thank you, Pamela, for stopping by. It is good to see you here.

  18. Thanks so much, Irene, for stopping by and for leaving such kind comments.

  19. Patspreng says

    How beautiful. This man. This Abbot.
    How perfectly appropriate for you to wear your beautiful heart to honor his life.
    Thank your for sharing this with us, Diana.  A tender prayer for you, especially in the moments when you will miss him… may your heart be comforted and guided by our Great Shepherd to peace… from death into life.

  20. Thank you, Pat, for these kind words. I appreciate the words, the prayers and you, most of all.

  21. It is so spiritually invigorating to experience Christ in various denominations, isn’t it?  We all become blind to what belongs to us, but when we can see things through visitor’s eyes the service becomes alive!

  22. I know I’m all loud and disco-like, but I do enjoy the simple, quiet, rich, and beautiful. It finds its way in, you know?

    Thank you for this. For bringing us along with you. For letting us in.

  23. pastordt says

    Yes, indeed it is, Kimberly. For some reason, I just received notice of your comment here and I wanted to thank you for stopping by and for offering these words of encouragement.

  24. pastordt says

    Honey pie, I do NOT think of you as ‘loud and disco-like.’ I think of you as lively and beautiful and filled with the joy of life. And that joy sometimes includes being still and quiet. Anyone who reads your writing knows that you know this, Deidra, believe me. And thanks for these kind words and for reading this today.