Posted April 22, 2012 in Memorials:
My Conversation with Paul

by Andorra Howard.

Though Paul Holland was a man of few words, he had a light within him and an infectious joyful countenance. He was a mystery to me, and I felt drawn to him and wanted to communicate with him—somehow. But I never quite knew how to do it.

One evening, I saw Paul Moore, a staff worker visiting for a few days from one of our houses, having a great conversation with Paul Holland. Paul M. had been a journalist before joining Madonna House, and he could get a stone to talk.

But still, I was so surprised to see them talking away, and I thought to myself, "I’m going to talk with Paul Holland, too. I’m going to have a conversation with him!"

So I gathered up my courage, and one evening I sat with Paul and tried to engage him. I looked at the newspaper he was reading and asked him about the news. I got very little response.

I tried asking his opinion about an article. He responded: "I don’t know enough about it."

I tried everything but to no avail. No conversation with Paul was ever going to happen for me!

But even though I realized it wouldn’t work, he still drew me. So I began to watch him at meals and other times.

Paul might not have been a talker, but he was the wittiest one-liner I had ever known.

Just before Christmas, for example, we were going to decorate the Christmas tree as a family. "Paul, are you going to come tonight to help decorate?" I asked him.

Quick as anything, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he said, "I don’t want to show up the children." And off he went.

He was great for one-liners, as I said, and he never failed to greet you if you greeted him. And without many words, he welcomed all from his favorite chair in the dining room.

Then Paul began to fail. Soon we were told that he wouldn’t last much longer, and if we wanted to visit him, we could do so. So I went in to see him.

There he lay unresponsive, seemingly asleep. And something in my heart began to weep. I had never known Paul, but at that moment I realized something. I realized that Paul was my hero. And I wanted to tell him that.

So, in a quiet voice, with tears streaming down my face, I spoke to him.

"You are my hero, Paul," I said. "I want to be just like you. I want your holy joy. I want to be able to welcome everyone the way you do."

Once more, I received no response. But that was all right; I guess it was never meant to happen. I left with peace in my heart.

The next day, Paul entered into eternity.

In Madonna House, when one of us has died, we have the custom of having someone spend the night in vigil beside the coffin. Being a night owl, I volunteered for this. It would be my farewell to Paul.

As the night wore on, I dozed, and I had a dream. I don’t remember all the details of it, but I do remember one thing. Paul was in it. And he talked to me!

He said, "Don’t be afraid to be weak or lowly or broken. Don’t be afraid to be lowly and humble, like the shepherds."

Then I woke up. It was over. But one thing remained. And it filled my heart. Paul had spoken to me!

He said more to me in "death" than he ever had in life. And what he said was a "word" of life for me. And joy came, too.

Because, finally, finally, Paul talked to me!


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