Good Words for Ron Fredette

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Ron Fredette

By Rebecca Fullan

Ron had a lot of crazy bits.  When he talked to you it was like you had made a little slit in some kind of information-filled balloon, and the facts whooshed out, all in a rush and jumble.

And he was LOUD.  His singing voice was this huge booming querulous bass thing that filled the church.  It made you laugh if you were unprepared.  Not that his voice was bad,  it was just… so loud.

My favorite story about Ron was told by this other man, Gary, who was going through RCIA when I was a little girl.  When the RCIA candidates left the church mid-Mass, we sang this little song to them:

“Christ will be your strength.  Learn to know and follow Him.”

Now, Gary, in addition to being a nascent Catholic, was also a bus driver.  And Ron was a bus rider.  And every day, Gary picked Ron up.  And instead of just putting his money in the slot and going to a seat, Ron stood there at the front of the bus, and in his deep, loud, booming voice, Ron sang:

“Christ will be your strength.  Learn to know and follow him.”

Gary found this embarrassing!  And every day he knew it was coming, and there was nothing he could do. It has never failed to make me laugh. 

Once, my mom and I took Ron with us to visit churches on Holy Thursday.  I loved this practice. All the flowers and ribbons and light.  All the Jesus.  I knelt as close as I could in front of every altar and I let time lose itself in Him, in me, in this intersection.  Subcutaneous quiet soaking in. 

When it was all done Ron hugged me and told me he was praying for my vocation.

Freaked me out a little. Did he think I was going to be a nun?  Was I doing something weird that made him think I needed a prayer like this?

But I have never forgotten it.  And when everything is dark around me, I do think of Ron, praying for my vocation, and I am glad that someone is.

Ron got sick.  This was after I was away at school, so I didn’t really see him.  But my mom said he stopped singing so loudly.  The thought of him not singing was like hearing a mountain had just fallen off the earth, or something. 

Here’s the part I like best.  Ron got sick, and this other man, more conventionally sane but by no means easy, brought him food every day.  He brought Ron communion when he couldn’t go to church. 

They weren’t friends.  Not the kind of friends you sit down and have coffee with and for whom you save the shiny bits of your life and lay them out as offerings.  Not that kind of friends at all.  You couldn’t really have a conversation with Ron in the ordinary sense.

That’s church to me.  That’s fucking church, know what I mean?  This guy who sings too loud, and talks too much, and not in the right ways, and when I’m in a spiritual deep freeze, I hold his prayer against me like a candle. This other man taking care of Ron like he’s his brother, when maybe he doesn’t even like him in any ordinary sense of the word.

It’s a connection that blasts through the pleasant but tenuous bonds of personal affinity and takes you someplace deeper.

Ron died nine days ago.  And for all intents and purposes, I don’t have a church.  I go to church, not every week, but sometimes.  But I sit, and I am restless, and I sing and I pray and I leave. 

Last Sunday I went to a church I’d never been to before.  And I felt this turning-over anger in me.  And I heard the voice, you know the one?  Saying I am calling you, you, I am calling this, not some good girl, close-mouthed, close-legged, happy world-presented self.

I am no longer confident enough to call it God unequivocally.  But I answer it, Lord, where are you calling me?  Fuck, you mean here?  Do you mean here, Lord, in this church, with my anger and my defiance and my pain and stings?

Perhaps.   It is not, after all, about personal affinity.  It is not about being nice or good or right or smart or sane or quiet.  I can hear him now:

“Christ will be your strength.  Learn to know and follow him.’

Ah, shit.

 

Keep praying for my vocation, Ron.  And sing louder than the angels.  You are needed, and you will be missed.

 

Rebecca Fullan has never sung on a public bus, but one time in high school she skipped church and walked down to a river and danced and sang on somebody’s dock.  They thought she was suicidal or on crack and called the police.  But it was fun til then.

Photo credit: http://ballweg-lunsford.com/?p=obituary_view&id=10001609

 

 

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4 Responses

  1. You have taught me that is Church, a true community of believers caring for each other. It is reported that it was said of the early followers of Jesus,”See how they love one another”. Church,ideally, is where there aren’t the usual dividers or usual friendships but truly all are equal in our God’s eyes and in our eyes when we really live the message. You once told me that that is something you liked about our worship community that people who in other life situations would not have contact with each other found a special bond.(Forgive the paraphrasing). Let us strive to support and care for each other in the manner you have described and to see that we are truly one in Jesus the Christ. I pray that you will soon find a “WELCOMING community where Christ is the Center” as your original worshiping community has as its mission. I pray that you will feel God’s love always especially when you are angry. I miss Ron and ask him t pray for us as we will pray for him.

  2. One more time you plumb the depths of humanity with cogent authority. One more time you bring emotion to eyes that ceasd to have it long ago. One more time you make me wish I had followed a similar path. That I do so now is in large measure due to your friendship and that of others of your ilk who see the good in all and not the color of the skin or the lifestyle (economic or social) or whose need for God is greater.

    I’ve always been a Catholic even though my Mom would have excommunicated me for an incident in church where my non-Catholic father asked for the scorecard in the pew. Of course I knew he meant the missile, but the reference seared my funny bone and every guffaw I had ever stuffed within in a religious setting boiled over.

    Years later, Mom saw the humor in the moment, but believe me, it was years later. I rarely attend church anymore and hope that it is not a prerequisite for admission to the Big House. I occasionally watch mass for shut ins, feeling a tad guilty for not getting up on Sunday.

    But I digress, many religions embrace a wide spectrum of beliefs. Wide but not all, and one such as you who can open their heart to all is someone to be cherished indeed.

  3. Out of respect to Ron and Gary and you, I feel compelled to respond to your story. I feel as if I’ve met you all and I recognize your stories in the stories I carry around inside me! To be reminded of that song is such a gift. The Holy Spirit may have a sick sense of humor by making us all struggle with our funky Church. There’s something about Ron’s joy and conviction that is compelling and meaningful. while I have to say the hard- hitting, intransigent, seige- mode Church is very unattractive. To me, anyway. I’m so glad there are “crazy” people whose life spills so sloppily into ours and reminds us that Christ is indeed our strength.

    Thank you for introducing us to Gary, for his picture, actual and in word.

  4. Rebecca, What a beautiful and special tribute to Ron. He was truly a part of Lourdes and will be missed.
    Meg

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