Jason Ranieri Eulogy
As I stood by Jason’s bed to pray with his family the “Trisagion” prayer for the rest of his soul on Sunday afternoon, a surge of puzzling thoughts, questions, and uncertain answers were flooding my mind.
Looking at the holy icons by his bedside, observing the relaxed position of his body, the quiet demeanor of his face, I felt that the presence of Life was more dominate than death in his room. During this brief prayer the atmosphere in his room inspired everything that has to do with life; no trace of death to be found other than in the form of his breathless body.
During these past few days my thoughts have been racing back to the first time I met him; then to his various surgeries and my hospital and rehab visits with him.
On July 4th 2014, Jason texted me, “Thank you Father Joseph and a happy 4th of July to you. I am doing ok so far. The surgery is still not going to be done until next Tuesday or Wednesday, so I have to just wait it out to see how bad my leg turns out to be. I do appreciate you taking the time to stop by here to give me a blessing yesterday. I felt much better afterwards”.
From the time we had first met, I can hardly remember seeing Jason actually coming to the church, but I vividly remember how often he asked for prayers and how quietly he kept a tight relationship with the church.
On July 24th 2014 Jason texted saying, “Hello Father Joseph, I just wanted to let you know that I am having my surgery in about 30 minutes and to please say a prayer for me.”
Having Jason as part of my life and ministry made the words of the Lord Jesus Christ “I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36) echo intensely and meaningfully in my mind and my heart every time they are heard or read.
Being present by the bedside of a patient during a time of sickness and pain reveals the importance of the human encounter; that being present in the moment is a powerful action. It brings comfort and relief to those who are in pain. The Lord has given this matter such a high priority that nothing in the world can equal or replace the irreplaceable human presence. It is amazing to know that our mere presence by someone’s bedside makes us coworkers of miracles with God and rewards us with miraculous joy.
On August 8th, 2014 Jason texted from his rehab facility, “Yes I am still here. You can stop by anytime. I have physical therapy this afternoon and then dinner until about 6pm. Visiting hours are until 9pm, but anytime you are able to make it here just let me know and I will make time. Thank you.”
During most or all of the times when I encountered him or spoke to him, and despite the silent presence of his continuous pain, Jason was always kind and gracious.
Inspired by all the events of my relationship with Jason, I am inclined to believe that as a church community in this local geographical area and as an Orthodox church in this part of the world we ought to modify our ministry to fit the changing times in order to continue to meet the unchanging human needs, if we want the Church to continue to bring comfort and pain-free life to many God loving people who are suffering.
Jason is a part of the generation that lives under different conditions and circumstances than their previous generation. The middle age generation that is missing from the church pews and other church functions is a generation that still loves and believes in God. It has not rejected him, denied him, or drifted away from him. Rather, it is hungry for more substantial spiritual nourishment than what is being offered to them. This generation is not satisfied with what is being offered, and certainly it is not in need of many social events that have just a small fraction of religious color or taste to them.
Currently the speed of the changes within the outside social/life conditions is faster than the pace of the reaction of church communities. This uneven equation leaves a large church population un-churched and being prevented from receiving many of the valuable fruits which the church ministries can or should provide.
As an Orthodox Church being aware of the deep devotion to God in the hearts of Jason and his peers, we are challenged every day to adjust and modify the current ways of our ministries offered to this generation by utilizing more effective ways and means in order to meet the inner spiritual needs of Jason and his peers.
The church through God’s divine grace can help and has more to offer than a few social events, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8).
The church can be a great supporting aid and I pray this was the case with Jason during his challenging and painful journey. The cordial and kind demeanor of a person while suffering says a lot about his character and inner kindness.
Jason’s story, his graciousness while silently suffering has made an indelible impression on me. I had never heard him complaining, criticizing, condemning, cutting down anyone or blaming anybody for his pain.
I will always remember Jason as he will come to mind anytime and every time I read the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet about the man of sufferings, which in my mind describes him, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7)