April 14, 2023

Jack Smiley died two years ago today. Jack dedicated his life teaching at Saint Mark’s High School. He was loved and respected by students, faculty, and all who were blessed to have known him. He loved his family, teaching, coaching football, good conversation, and spending time at the beach with one of his Labrador retrievers.

The funeral service was led by Jack’s good friend, Fr. Ed Aigner, who was also a colleague at St. Mark’s. Ed spoke affectionately about Jack. They were longtime friends who loved the outdoors. Their vacations and travels involved hiking, exploring, camping, boating, fishing… activities that affirm our place amidst the splendor of Creation.

Fr. Ed Aigner died suddenly two weeks ago. He was a good and faithful priest, a hard-working person of integrity. He was reserved and quiet, that rare individual who knew that being a listener is a powerful way of communicating. Talking to him was both healing and affirming.

Ed’s funeral was today in Salisbury, Maryland. Yet I was unable to attend. I wanted to cherish their memory so I went to Lower Presbyterian Cemetery, a precious hideaway in the historic Brandywine Valley. This is the sacred ground in which Jack Smiley is buried. It is also the very place where I last saw Ed Aigner.

I offered a prayer in gratitude for the many ways their good ways impacted the lives of many others. In particular, I gave thanks for their encouragement to me over the years.

I remember both Jack and Ed as natural leaders, mentors as well as teachers. They were kind and caring, gentlemen whose lives were virtuous, though never showy. They met each day with grace, paced by a subtle dignity. Shaped by civility, they displayed good manners with ease. Down to earth, authentic, real.

I’m not surprised that such friends came into my life. Dreamers like me are slow to recognize the benefit of sincere dedication. The world enjoys a clever punchline. But laughter is brief. Those who have touched us deeply remain.

Remembering is seeing. Seeing the goodness again of Jack and Ed opens a window for me, an imagining that is uplifting, inspiring, and “beyond.”

I don’t know if there’s a heaven. But my hope in such a possibility grows stronger by having known Jack and Ed. Yes, memories are precious—I am so grateful to have had “such as these” in my story. Still, to envision even more, a place called “Paradise,” the fullness of Life and Love, a gathering of the “Community of the Beloved” that abounds with the likes of Jack and Ed!!! … Wow! Can you imagine?

I don’t know much about faith. I’m not even know if any faith has been given to me.

But sometimes in life, we meet and are changed by really good people. And such friends continue to change us and keep us moving forward.

More than ever, I want to believe.

Blessings to you… and thanks, Jack and Ed.

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