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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Henry Knew How to Suffer

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Henry Goodwin Knew How to Suffer

Henry’s lover Robert died of AIDS fifteen years ago and his ashes are in the Trinity Church Columbarium.

Henry used to come into the huge empty space of the church on a weekday and cry, moan, weep and wail. When it first happened Richard Turley, parish administrator, and I would rush into the church fearing Henry had been attacked or taken seriously ill. Henry was simply mourning the death of his beloved Robert.

A few years later Henry came down with HIV disease and gradually worsened into full incapacity. He came to church and sat in a special comfortable chair with a pillow for his aching bones. He often came into the office just to chat and complain, but always with humor and a smile. The members of the parish grew to love and support him.

Every morning for years Henry went to Peet’s Coffee shop on Fillmore at California Street, drank some tea and visited with his growing number of friends who also regularly spent part of the morning at Peet’s. After a while Henry did not have to pay for the tea.

One day Henry complained that his cleaning man couldn’t come for a month. A man, one of Peet’s customers, told Henry he would clean his apartment for him for a month.

Henry knew how to suffer. He moaned and groaned and complained. He told people that he was in pain, he had to go to the hospital, he had to come home from the hospital, and he needed help shopping. Henry was always in pain and he told us so. Henry was transparent, self-revealing and made himself vulnerable. He got lots of help because he asked for it or because people sensed his need. He also could laugh at himself.

Henry taught us a valuable life lesson. Share your pain and misery, tell your friends what you need, share your frustration. Don’t make everyone else wrong and blame the world or God for your suffering. Suffer and allow your friends to help. If they don’t know what you need, they can’t help you. Most people are willing to help if they know what you need.

Suffering in silence is no virtue, it is a sin. It cuts yourself and others off from love.

Henry came to church every Sunday he was able. As he went to the altar to receive communion, he touched the plaque bearing Robert’s name, as a way of being close to his departed lover.

We Christians believe in the hope of resurrection and a life after death. That is what faith n the life, death and resurrection of Jesus promises. That was Henry’s hope after a life of grief suffering and knowledge that he was loved and supported by so many people who came to know him as he suffered with valor and dignity. His ashes rest next to Robert’s in the Trinity columbarium.

From a homily at Henry Goodwin’s funeral service, December 1, 2007, Trinity Church, San Francisco, CA by Robert Warren Cromey


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