A Fitting Farewell

Father Kiesler stood there watching as the church sanctuary quickly filled up. It seemed like the entire community was there to pay their respects to Father Schmidt who had suffered a heart attack a few days ago and died. It was Sister Augustin who found him slumped over his desk in the office. She had called for an ambulance but it was too late.

Everyone was in a sorry state. The Sisters were in tears and so were some of the students. They all looked up to Father Schmidt. Even Monifa was in tears because he had been so kind to her and had even taught her a little German.

When Father Kiesler found out about that, he became insanely jealous. “I, not Father Schmidt, will teach you German if you’re so interested in learning it,” he informed her angrily.

The next time she saw Father Schmidt, she told him that someone else had offered to teach her German. And that was the end of that. Whenever she saw Father Schmidt after that, he asked her how the German was coming along and she would say that it was harder than she thought and he encouraged her to keep at it, reminding her, “With God, all things are possible.” And then, she heard the awful news of his death.

She was crying when Father Kiesler and she were together. It drove him crazy that she was shedding tears over another man but he held his peace. Instead, he held her tightly until she stopped crying. Then, he released her to disrobe and remove her clothes. He picked her up and carried her over to his bed. It was after ten when she left the rectory and headed back to the dorm.

Alone in his room, he recalled his last conversation with Father Schmidt. He had just returned from a walk when he was informed by one of the sisters that Father Schmidt wanted to see him. Curious as the reason for the summons, he went into the parish and headed for the office.

Father Schmidt was standing at the window but turned when he heard him. “We need to talk,” he said as Father Kiesler closed the door behind him before approaching him.

“You look troubled, Father,” he remarked. “Is something on your mind?”

His expression was very grave. “Yes, Father Kiesler. I have something heavy weighing on my mind.”

“What is it?”

“It concerns you.”

Father Kiesler’s eyebrows rose. “Me?”

“Yes. It has been brought to my attention that you have been having illicit relations with Monifa. Someone saw you two together in the library.”

“Who saw us?”

“The person wishes to remain anonymous. Is it true, Father? Have you been having illicit relations with her?”

He hesitated for a moment and then, he said, “Yes.”

Father Schmidt expelled his breath. “Father, how could you engage in relations with anyone, let alone one of our students?”

“I didn’t plan for it to happen,” Father Kiesler informed him. “but, whenever I saw her it was hard for me to deny my feelings no matter how hard I tried.”

“What feelings could you possibly have for a minor?” Father Schmidt demanded. “She’s fifteen years old. In some countries you would be charged with statutory rape. Have you no fear of God to be doing this in His sight and in His school?”

“God knows that we are flesh and blood under these cassocks.”

“You made a vow to deny your carnal nature when you chose to become a priest and wear that cassock, Father Kiesler.”

“That was before I met Monifa. She stirred feelings inside me which I never even knew existed–“

Father Schmidt raised his hands, his face suffused with color. “I don’t want to hear any more about your feelings,” he muttered angrily. “I want you to end this obsession you have with the girl immediately.”

“You think it’s an obsession?”

“Whatever it is, it’s of the Devil and we can’t have this kind of evil in our midst. As of this moment, you are prohibited from having any more contact with her. And I ask that you limit your movements to the rectory, the church and to the classrooms until I decide what’s to be done.”

There was a brief silence as Father Kiesler considered his options. “Very well, Father Schmidt. I will do as you wish.”

“A wise decision, Father Kiesler. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot to think about.”

Father Kielser left the office and went to the rectory. Later that night, Monifa went to his room and they made love. He didn’t mention to her that someone had seen them together in the library and had reported it to Father Schmidt.

The following afternoon, Father Schmidt was found dead in his office. And now here he was about officiate at his funeral. The Sisters, other clergy, the students, parents filed into the pews, their expressions somber. The air was heavy with grief and sorrow. It was oppressive.

Soon the funeral service was underway. For the entrance hymn, the choir sang Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King which was a favorite of Father Schmidt. Bishop Leitner offered the opening prayer. The First Reading was done by one of the Sisters and the Second Reading was done by one of the boys from the school. Following the readings were the Gospel Reading was read by Father Schmidt’s sister, Svenja; the Homily which was said by a deacon and the Prayers of the Faithful which was read by the parish secretary, Gracelyn who managed to fight back her tears.

There was time for people to share personal stories. One parishioner spoke of how Father Schmidt had been so kind and supportive when she had lost her husband in a terrible car accident. Another spoke of Father Schmidt’s visit to his farm one Sunday afternoon. “He loved being on the farm. He had never been on one before. I think the highlight of his visit was when he saw the pigs eating apples. I told him that pigs loved them. I also told him that they eat acorns too. He couldn’t believe that pigs eat apples and acorns.”

The man went on to explain that when pigs eat acorns they are safely clearing the area for the ponies and cattle who also roam in the forest and often poison themselves when eating too many of the green, unripen acorns. Father Kiesler who sat there, unimpressed and impatient was greatly relieved when he was finished.  It was now time for him to do the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

There was a presentation of gifts from Father Schmidt’s family and friends followed by the Eucharistic and the Lord’s Prayers, the Sign of Peace and the Communion Hymn. Father Kiesler commended the deceased into God’s hands and the casket was processed out of Church. The coffin was sprinkled with Holy Water and blessed with incense.

After the burial, there was a luncheon for the attendees at the parish provided by the parishioners. Father Kiesler mingled with Father Schmidt’s family and friends, smiling politely as they shared memories. He couldn’t wait for the whole affair to be over. He thought longingly of being in his room at the rectory and Monifa lying in the bed beside him. His eyes quickly scanned the sea of faces but hers wasn’t among them. Perhaps she had gone to her room.

Gracelyn joined them. She was an English woman who left England years ago to come to Hamburg. Her father was German so she was fluent in the language. She met Father Schmidt through a parishioner and learned that the parish needed a secretary. She applied for the job and got it. She had been working there for about fifteen years now. She wasn’t married but she was dating a professor. “It was a wonderful service,” she said. “Father Schmidt couldn’t have asked for a more fitting farewell.”

The others readily agreed. Father Kiesler merely smiled.

“I still can’t believe that he’s gone,” Mrs. Coëllmann said, shaking her head. “He seemed so healthy, so full of life and then, just like that he died from a heart attack.”

“There could have been factors that we don’t know which could have contributed to his heart attack such as diabetes, being overweight, not getting enough exercise or a poor diet.”

Gracelyn said, “We can rule out him being overweight and poor diet. I don’t think he had diabetes. Maybe he wasn’t getting enough exercise.”

“I don’t think Father Schmidt would want us dwelling on why he died,” Mrs. Habicht interjected.

“I agree with Mrs. Habicht,” Father Kiesler said. “We should be celebrating his life.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Gracelyn said.

“Excuse me,” Father Kiesler said to the group and walked away. They had become very tiresome with their meaningless chatter and speculation about the cause of Father Schmidt’s heart attack. Again, he wished that this unpleasant affair would soon be over.

Sources: Acton Funeral Home; Britannica; Anderson Funeral; Healthgrades; St. James Catholic Church

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