Farewell, Father Desjardins

She was at the flower shop buying flowers for her grandmother who was celebrating her 70th birthday when she spotted Father Desjardins. He was talking to Mr. Cooper whose farm he had invited her to visit with him and a group of other people. It had been a fun excursion. She had even milked a cow.

Father Desjardins saw her and waved. She waved back before she picked up a dozen yellow roses and went inside the shop to pay for them. Mrs. Yarou greeted her with a smile. “Hello, Ede.”

“Hello, Mrs. Yarou. It was so hard deciding which flowers to get for my grandmother. They are all so beautiful.”

“Yes, they are. How is your grandmother?”

“She’s doing fine. Today is her 70th birthday.”

“Oh, really? Please wish her a happy birthday for me.”

“I will.”

“She’s such a sweet lady.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll wrap these for you. Do you need a card to go with them?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Mrs. Yarou found a card and gave it to her. While she wrapped the flowers, Ede wrote the card. “It’s a shame that Father Desjardins is leaving. He stopped by here a few minutes ago. He said he’s making his final rounds before he leaves tomorrow.”

“Yes, it is a shame. The community wouldn’t be the same without him.”

“I’m going to miss his sermons. I especially liked the one he did on the Sunday when he announced that he was leaving.”

“Yes, that was one of his best sermons. It was “God’s Will Is Best.”

“Yes, that’s it. I guess it is God’s will that Father Desjardins should leave us and go all the way to Ireland. Still, it won’t be the same without him.”

“Father Peeters seems nice.”

“Yes, he does. Where’s he from again?”

“Brussels.”

“Oh, yes. He’s from Belgium. How old would you say he is?”

“In his 50s, I think.”

“Yes. He’s much older than Father Desjardins who’s in his thirties. That’s why they are sending him to Ireland. They need young priests over there.”

“Well, Mrs. Yarou. I’d better be going.” She hoped that Father Desjardins was still talking to Mr. Cooper.

“Say hello to your grandmother and wish her a happy birthday for me.”

“I will. Goodbye, Mrs. Yarou.”

“Goodbye, Ede.”

She left the shop and looked down the sidewalk and was relieved to see that Father Desjardins was still there but he was alone. She went over to him. “Hello, Father,” she said when she reached him.

“Hello, Ede. Are those for me?”

She smiled. “They’re for my grandmother. Today is her 70th birthday.”

“Oh. Are you heading home now?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I’ll come with you. I was going to stop by this evening to say goodbye but I can do so now. It would be nice to wish her a happy birthday.”

They walked down the sidewalk, pausing frequently as people stopped Father Desjardins to say goodbye and wish him well. “I’m going to miss playing Mosquitos and mud pies with the kids.”

“I used to play that when I was little. I didn’t like being the mosquitoes.”

“You liked throwing the mud pies.”

She smiled. “Yes. That was more fun than having them thrown at you.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I got mud pies in my face but it was all in good fun.”

She laughed. “It was for a good cause. The money raised from those games and activities were donated to the orphanages, homeless shelters and charitable organizations.”

“Yes, I’m always willing to do whatever I can to help the less fortunate.”

“I can’t believe that you’re leaving tomorrow.”

“I know. The weeks just flew by. Tomorrow, I will be on my way to Ireland.”

“Where in Ireland will you be?”

“In Castleconnell which I heard is very picturesque. It has fine restaurants, shops and river walks which I will enjoy exploring when I have time. It’s on the main line railway network which is good for me because I don’t drive. It’s a village that’s easy to get to.”

“Are you excited about going?”

“I have mixed feelings. I’m excited about going, yes, but at the same time, I’m sorry to be going.” He wanted to say, I’m sorry to be going because of you, Ede, no other reason.

They had reached her grandmother’s house and found her in the sitting-room, listening to music on the radio. She was very pleased to see Father Desjardins and warmly greeted him. He sat beside her. “You’re looking very well, Mrs. Amadou,” he said, gently patting her hand.

“Thank you, Father,” she said. “I feel blessed today because there’s no pain.”

“Praise God.”

“Yes, praise Him for His mercies which we daily receive.”

“Ede tells me that you’re celebrating a birthday today. I wish you a happy and blessed day and that God will continue to shower you with His blessings.”

“Thank you. Yes, I’m 70 years old today.”

Ede took the wrapped flowers over to her. “These are for you, grandma. Happy birthday.”

“So, that’s why you went out.” She slowly unwrapped the flowers and her eyes shone when she saw them. “They are lovely. Thank you, Dear.”

“You’re welcome. Read the card.”

Her grandmother reached for her glasses and put them on. She read the card and smiled. “Thank you for the flowers and the card.”

Ede leaned over and hugged her. “You’re welcome. I’ll put the flowers in some water.” She took them up. “Father, would you like something to drink?”

He shook his head, “No, thank you.”

Ede excused herself and left the room to take care of the flowers.

As soon as she was gone, Mrs. Amadou turned to Father Desjardins. “You love her, don’t you?”

After he recovered from his shock, he asked, “Is it that obvious?”

“Only to me. I see what others don’t see. I have what you call a discerning spirit.”

“If I weren’t a priest, I would have asked Ede to marry me a long time ago.”

“You were meant to serve God as the apostle Paul did. Marriage wasn’t for him and it isn’t for you.”

“And Ede?”

“She will be a wife someday, yes, but to another man of faith.”

Father Desjardins lowered his eyes as the pain of her words cut through him like a knife. “As long as she will be happy, that is all that really matters.”

“Yes. Your happiness will come from serving God and ministering to others.”

Ede rejoined them. She put the vase with the flowers on the coffee table. “They brighten the room, don’t they?”

“Yes, they do,” her grandmother agreed.

Father Desjardins said, “I’m afraid I have to leave but before I do, I would like to say a word of prayer.” He knelt down beside Mrs. Amadou.

Ede switched off the radio and knelt beside him. They all bowed their heads and clasped their hands while he said a word of prayer. When he was finished, he opened his eyes and taking Ede’s grandmother’s hands in his, he said, “Goodbye, Mrs. Amadou. Thank you for everything.”

“Thank you, Father Desjardins. You have been a blessing to all us. I know you will be a blessing to the church in Ireland too. Take care of yourself and may God continue to bless you.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Amadou. May God be with you today and always.” Releasing her hands, he rose to his feet the same time Ede rose to hers.

“I’ll walk you out,” she said. As she preceded him out of the room and out to the back of the house, she hoped that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself and burst into tears.

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In the garden, they faced each other. His expression was guarded but inside he was in such turmoil. How he longed to take her in his arms and hold her tightly. Instead, he held out his hand and said, “Goodbye, Ede. Take care of yourself.”

She took his hand. “Goodbye, Father Desjardins. God be with you.”

“And with you too. Goodbye.” He released her hand and abruptly walked away, his heart heavy.

She watched him go, a tall figure retreating figure in black until he was gone. When she was alone, she sat down on the picnic table where they used to sit. And she cried.

Sources: The New York Times; Enjoy Ireland

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