by Fr. Jonathan Atchley
I cannot recall the professor’s name at CSULB who brought us together to teach a semester in social studies for 4th/5th graders, but I am grateful for that accidental sufficiency for obtaining a credential which introduced me to my lifelong friend, Rob Hull. And now, as Rob lies on what I surmise to be his deathbed, I continue to surrender him to the Lord with commendations and exhortative sighs: save him, Jesus! Have mercy on us all!
Rob was—is, as he lives, quite knowledgeable, but also humble about the affair of knowing a great deal about many things. We started going to dinner on Friday evenings after our brief time together in the teacher credential program. Rob talked me through the process of passing the formidable MSAT test, a battery of essay questions that weeds out prospective students from acceptable state qualified teachers. I was delighted in having him carry the preponderance of our evening conversations, peppering him with questions to find he always had something more to say on a particular subject. Even more surprising to me was that Rob enjoyed meeting up, as he continued to keep in contact over the years.
Now he lies helpless in the ICU at St. Mary’s hospital in Long Beach, his head warm, hands cold, intubated, eyes open and unblinking, at death’s door. How God reduces the mighty, even the humble who are already reduced, that He might exalt us afterwards. A good priest friend gave Rob the last rites and conditional absolution, even though Rob never quite could overcome the last step of converting to Catholicism. Yet I am convinced that in his ongoing fascination with the Faith, he would have willingly submitted in spite of his personal doubts or reservations which we never discussed.
There’s not much I can say at the moment about Rob, other than that the people I introduced him to were open and receptive to him as I was. And now he goes before me, as so many other friends have done, reminding me of that great and terrible day when God comes calling. For that day I have been preparing with my daiy recitation of St. Brigid of Sweden’s prayers, asking the Lord to apply them a bit early for I am only a third of the year into them and Rob is not really a relative, though he felt as familiar as any family member.
“Through this [your] bitter Passion and through the outpouring of Thy Precious Blood, I beg of Thee, O Sweet Jesus, to receive his soul when he is in his death agony. Amen.”