Note from Saint Basil Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Vasco seems smaller today. It’s not just his absence. It’s a physical thing. I’m surprised how much smaller Vasco seems as he lies dead at the viewing at St Basil Catholic Church. Like all the life has been taken and it diminishes him physically.

The sun is shining yet it’s a hazy sun. It doesn’t shine as brightly today. The LA people wear smart black clothes and sunglasses. I think they don’t need the glasses to shield against the sun today. I think, at least maybe one or two, wish to hide their eyes and keep their feelings inside.

And of course, there’s a guy selling rosaries. $5. Can you help out with any change? I’d light a candle but you have to buy them from the Rectory and the Rectory is closed. Hazy sunlight is enough today.

I don’t really know anyone here. I just remember Vasco, meeting him just a few weeks ago and finding this person with all this incredible energy and zeal. And so I sit and listen to the people talk. And they talk about Vasco. And their memories of him, how they knew him.

A pigeon flies straight at me, startling me. It lands near my feet. I watch it strut, noticing the colors on its neck. Pigeons are beloved by some for their homing ability.

The people talk softly around me. In the church, people cross themselves with holy water. There’s lots of sniffing. Crying, softly. The organ begins to play and people file in quietly. A homeless woman stirs on a pew at the back of the church then goes back to sleep.

Beautiful colored light hits the plain concrete wall, streaming through a modern stained glass window. Orange purple green yellow, a touch of cyan, a mote of red. Now on the statues of St Joseph. Now diagonal bands on the wall. Some of the colors match the iridescent pigeon.

The priest exits and blesses the coffin, closed now. A final baptism. The coffin is draped in white and brought in, the processional. The rest of the mourners fill the church. There’s a hymn. The slashes of light are red and yellow. Joseph is the colors of the homing bird.

Beautiful singing, someone holds up their phone to record it. Just one among a hundred. Maybe two hundred. Actually they’re not recording. It’s a different face. A mourner who can’t make it. They’re streaming. Just the song. The homily. Parts.

Guy takes pictures because, I suppose, the lens is his fallback. I write because the written word is mine. Behind me, a woman sobs, completely. How can Vasco Nunes, this man so vibrant so alive be gone?

Siri shares directions to another place from an unsilenced cellphone in the pews ahead. People fluster and smile nervously. At the Eucharist, a second homeless woman comes in, makes her way near the front and prays for her wine fix. I don’t think she knows anyone. I’ve seen maybe two other African American people, the other homeless, the other well dressed. Communion lady wears a grey hoodie and carries a giant bag.

The priest invites us to share a sign of peace with those nearby. I shake two hands, peace be with you. There is peace. Communion begins. I quietly exit.

Afterward, I sit in Carl’s Jr inhaling a burger without really tasting or chewing before I go to meet writers. I’m glad I got to see Guy and Lisa and Jonathan. I’m glad I got to see Vasco one more time, although it was sad not to feel his presence. I reflect I’m probably too cynical. I hope the poor woman got a good draught of port. I hope everyone did. It’s a Catholic Church and this is a wake. It’s also communion.

Being present is being connected and at some point, it dawns on me, Vasco hasn’t shrunk. He’s grown, diffused. His spirit is all around me, kept alive through all these memories, these people, these friends. Vasco didn’t go. He’s still here, thanks to his spirit, and those who met him continue to feel his presence.

Don’t fear life, my friend. Life is fleeting. Life is good. And our spirits know how to get home after.