I almost forgot about him, but not in my heart. Whenever I look at the tiny framed artwork of the Madonna in silver that he gave me, I think of him. Father Gary Kibler was one of my teachers in high school, but much more than that. I was an assistant of sorts in that I was the chapel’s sacristan; he was my Confirmation sponsor. But most of all, he was a warm human being. We talked for hours in his office many times, and he even helped me explore the possibility of becoming a diocesan priest.
When I say I forgot about him, I don’t mean he wasn’t part of my life story but that I had put the details out of my mind. We drifted apart toward the end of my high school years and I did not appreciate the last conversation we ever had, by phone, which I will not recapture here. But when I saw his face on someone’s Facebook wall reporting that he died last month, the warmth of his gentle spirit came back to me. It was like being a Sophomore again, in a wonderful time in my spiritual journey.
A number of conversations have come back to me over the years — particular lessons about religion — and I wonder how many more discussions we could have had if things had been different. Losing touch and not reuniting with him makes me feel something I rarely experience — regret. He is not a Saint in heaven, another star in my sky whom my eyes will not pass by again.