What to say...
Hi. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mary Wilkerson, formerly Mary Buckley. I met Paul when we were both 18 year old kids, who thought we were really grown up as Freshman at Franciscan University. Like so many of you, my memory is filled with adventures, faith and unbelievable joy with my best friend. After we graduated from college, Paul lived with my family for a few years on and off. My brother was his best man. My siblings consider Paul another Brother, and my parents consider him another son. Like all of us here, we can’t believe this is real life. Although, there is a part of me that thinks it’s fitting that Paul gets to see Jesus first. And, without an ounce of doubt, I know, right now, my friend is with Jesus. Heck, he’s probably already offered the Blessed Mother a swing dance.
You see, in these last few weeks, as I watched the community come together to #prayforpaul, everyone kept saying the same thing.
“This guy is different”
“This guy is the best”
“This guy show’s people Christ”
And that might be what makes this all so hard. Why did God take him? How can this possibly be the best way? How does Paul being gone make the light of Christ more obvious? More prevalent? How does any of this make sense?
“And Jesus Wept”
The shortest verse in the bible. I always thought it was one of the most profound moments in Scripture. Because what made Him weep was the sorrow of the community, even though He knew the victory that could come from death. The broken hearts, the faces of disbelief, the accusations of His friends…
“If you had been here, our brother would not have died”
We prayed, dear Jesus, we prayed hard. We believed a miracle was possible. We said together, “Master, the one you love is sick”. How can it be that he’s gone? But then, I think of our Paul.
And his laugh. Oh, that laugh! And I think of his love. Man- he never had a bad thing to say about anyone, and he just may have gotten a little frustrated with me, because, SOMETIMES I MIGHT have had bad things to say about people.And I think of how he loved Jesus. So completely- more than anyone I have ever met. So much so that I often wondered why he’d ever choose to be friends with a big ol’ pagan like me. When I think of how he loved Jesus, I am so happy for him.
Every night, when we were together, he’d say
“Sleep with the Angels” and I would respond, “And rise with the Saints” **
(***sometimes we’d add in And wake with Jesus on your heart***)
My brother pointed out the other night- Paul is ACTUALLY sleeping with the angels and rising with the saints. My friend, right now, with saints and angels. It’s almost too joyful to bear.
Mr. and Mrs. Coakley- a mystery I am unfolding as a young mother, is that my job is to get my children to heaven. The weight of that sometimes cripples me. It’s what I want so badly for the children entrusted to me. And I believe fully- you did it! You raised him to desire heaven first, and now, he gets to be there. But, you raised him SO well, that he worked hard to make sure all of us had a chance to go there with him. And he didn’t do it in words. He did it in action. In a way that’s hard to describe, but picturing his face, smile, laugh and love… THAT’s how he did it.
Annie, Christian, Damian, Caeli Grace and sweet baby Coakley, thank you. Thank you for allowing us to watch your holy family, right till the end. Thank you for saying “yes” when God led you down a road no one expected. Annie, thank you for teaching us what Christian Marriage should look like. Whether that was Paul reminding you to eat when telling a good story, or you saving money on the sly to buy him that motorcycle. Thank you for teaching us how to love, even as you held your beloved and helped usher him into the deepest desire of his heart… the heavenly kingdom
Annie, your children will know Paul. Because all of us will ensure it. Not just in the way we tell stories, support you, or promise to make your family a priority in our lives. Those are good, but there is more. We will live Annie. We will #livelikepaul. Even when we don’t want to. We will risk adventures, we will live in the moment, we will root our lives in prayer and be kinder to others. And we will know your children, and they will know Paul through us.
I spoke of adventures with Paul, but what I didn’t tell you is I am not an adventurous person. AT. ALL. In fact, I often would be angry at the situations my friend would convince me to be a part of. Questioning outloud why I was friends with him and using colorful words.
If you look carefully- I am terrified
One of these times, we had road tripped to Califronia and Paul had convinced me to climb a cliff to jump off a water fall, because, apparently this is what “Normal” people do for fun. At one point the cliff ridge bent and you had to proceed by leaning your body into the abyss and walking forward. I freaked the freak. BIG TIME. Sobbing, questioning once again why I was friends with Paul. I told Paul I would not go where he wanted, could not go where he wanted. But, there was no way to go back- and so Paul told me, as he often did, to calm down. That he would walk me through it. Told me to hold his hand- put my right foot here, my left foot in this spot. I held on to his hand, and I made it. My friend got me though and I jumped off that waterfall as one of the coolest memories of my 20s.
Paulie- we are gonna need your help to get through this one. It’s scary and we don’t want to do it. But there is no going back- So you beg that heavenly Father, on our behalf, your friends, family, parents, and most of all wife and children- to make this a little less scary. And be near to us.
I’ll miss your guts buddy.