I mentioned this story yesterday after realizing I never posted it.
A Walk in The Rain, Revisited….orginally published in The Mount Alumni magazine, Summer of 2006
For many years now I typically make at least one trip a year to Emmitsburg, MD where I attended Mt. St. Mary’s College, graduating in 1982. I suppose that aside from the fact I worked at the local Fire/EMS Dept. and at the Emergency Dept. at Gettysburg (PA) Hospital, my existence there was that of a typical college student. I went through the motions, took the tests and graduated. I then made my way to the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and became an undertaker. I then had to meander through a few decades before coming to the realization of appreciating how important those forty-eight months were in forming the man I was to become.
It was the third week in April 2005 that I was to make the drive from South Carolina to New Jersey for my nephew’s First Holy Communion. My wife and three daughters were not able to take the trip with me, so I left a day early and drove all the way to Maryland and spent that evening and most of the following day at The Mount. It had been almost two years since my last sojourn there and I was looking forward to this visit more so than I usually did.
Mid April in Aiken is already early summer, but when I awoke in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland that morning, it was thirty-eight degrees and raining. As I walked around the foggy, damp campus, my mind raced, recalling places, people and events as usually happens when I visit. There was a moment that I came to the realization that most of the men and women who were preparing to graduate in just a few weeks were born the year I was dispatched from this Mountain, diploma in hand. It was really the first time in my life that I realized I wasn’t a kid any longer.
There is a very old cemetery on the side of the mountain, just above the college that dates back to 1808. This cemetery has since been enlarged and developed into one of the first “College Cemeteries” in the Country. Someday, when my time is up, that is where my earthly remains will rest.
In the original, older section, there is, what is affectionately referred to as “Priest’s Row”. It is where the “Men of the Mount” lay buried. Their monuments are testimonies to their wisdom and dedication to the college and to their faith. Being the second oldest Catholic College in the Country, the faculty was, at one time, all priests. They dedicated their lives to the pursuit and teaching of wisdom and philosophical discernment, not political correctness, social engineering or memorization for exams. They instructed countless thousands on how to analyze a situation, weigh consequences and to make sound decisions with certainty. They stayed and taught until they died, not because they had tenure and could take it easy, but because they humbly understood how important their contributions were. They probably also anticipated the future, realizing that there would come a time that classic teachings would become diluted with modern thought as they often are today.
Even after all these years, I still learn from them. One of the highlights of my visits is the time I spend with those buried there. I go there to pray, reflect and to relax a bit. It’s difficult to put into words, but as I stand at the graves, I read their names….Forker, Delaney, O’Neil, Dillon, Kaliss, Byrd, Fives, Kline, Philips. I recall and give thanks for the indelible impact they each have etched on my being as a man. I think of challenges I face today and wonder what they would offer up as a path for me take to conquer any task at hand. My life is less because they are physically gone, but I am forever grateful because they lived. Whatever meager successes I achieve are but a small part of their legacy. I wish I could go back in time to when they were alive, (and I was 20!). If I knew then, what I know today, I would have listened harder and spent more time in their company.
Requiescat in Pace……”May they Rest in Peace”.