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Dear Friends: I was honored to deliver at the funeral liturgy for 25 year-old Brendan Fahy Bequette who passed away on 28 February 2022, after a 20-month battle with an aggressive, rare mediastinal germ cell cancer.
BRENDAN FAHY BEQUETTE
A Funeral Homily by Rev. Richard S. Vosko
St. Vincent de Paul Church, Albany, New York
March 5, 2022
There is an anonymous 9th century manuscript called “The Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot.” It is an example of an entire genre of Celtic literature known as immrama or stories about journeys.
These Irish tales are concerned with a hero’s voyage west of Ireland across the sea to a paradise, a land of perpetual youth, abundance, and happiness also known as the Promised Land of the Saints.
They are vivid accounts of the heroic lives of Christian pioneers like Saint Brendan the Sojourner. The narratives provide insights into the realities of life and death, a mix of life’s anxieties and yearnings.
On their dangerous journey Saint Brendan the Sojourner often said to his monks: “Do not be afraid O you of little faith. God has always looked after us and God is sure to save us … and from all perils to come.” (Is 43:2-3)
This tale and other stories about Saint Brendan gave our Brendan hope and resilience during his sickness. Spiritually and philosophically inclined, Brendan sought the protection of God and St. Brendan. The connection was important as he came to realize that, after many months of treatments and the tenacious and loving efforts of his parents and medical team to make him better, he was about to die.
In the final months of his life Brendan found comfort in the Prayer of Saint Brendan. “Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown … O Christ of the mysteries, I trust you to be stronger than each storm within me. I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in your hand.” (Ps 31)
Amidst innumerable joys, life on this planet can be hard. People of faith claim God is the creator of all life and should protect them always. What we can believe is that God is first one to cry when someone dies.
Still, in spite of our faith in a just and loving God it is so difficult for us to be in the presence of someone we love who is no longer alive. However, science tells us that energy never dies, it merely takes on a different form.
Some religions like Buddhism hold that death leads to rebirth. Others like Islam believe that the real life begins after death. In our Christian tradition we abide by what Jesus said to his followers “I am the bread of life; even though you die you will live forever.” (Jn 6:47-48)
In the meantime as sting of death hurts us it awakens us to be more mindful of how we use our time on earth, how we live. In one example, the gospel of Matthew (6:19-21) we just heard advises us to seek only heavenly treasures, infinite blessings. Everything else will soon pass away.
Brendan was blessed with ever emerging gifts. A look at some of his earlier work as a director of film suggests he had an artistic and sensitive understanding of the scripts and an imaginative way of expressing them by using light, shadows, and color. He identified with those story lines that speak of the risks and rewards in life and he gave them new meaning.
Brendan’s own life story will continue to run as an model of the sensitive respect he had for everyone — his entire family, close friends, companions, his colleagues, health care providers, and many others.
Beneath his quiet almost shy demeanor, he was strong and resilient while methodically wrestling with a rare disease. He showed faith both in God and humanity. All of his attributes live on as we tell his story, share his faith, his love, and what he did for us and gave to us.
Although shattered by the death of someone we dearly love we do not grieve forever. There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to live, and, yes, a time to die. (Eccl 3:1-8)
With time and memory, stories and prayer, we find a way to carry on with Brendan’s spirit — working, playing, teaching, serving, and loving others. As we heard in the second reading we want to be patient and kind; never jealous; not boastful or conceited, and never rude. (1 Cor 13: 4-8a)
The Jewish word for funeral is “Halvaya.” (hal-va-YAH) It means to remember and accompany the deceased person. Brendan’s parents and sister held on to him in his difficult journey. We now travel with Brendan as he moves through what Irish mythology calls a mesmerizing and mystical “thin space” that separates heaven and earth.
Brendan was a curious and brave traveler in life just like his namesake and favorite saint. And now, like Saint Brendan and those Irish monks, we believe Brendan has arrived at the Promised Land of the Saints.