In Loving Memory - Paul F. Collins Jr.
Friend, Companion and Confidant
June 1957 - February 2000
I have not known Paul as long as some of you, but I feel like we've known each other all of our lives. Paul and I met when I was not at all looking to meet new people. My sister had recently died from cancer, as well as two friends. I was introduced to Paul, and we spent the afternoon exchanging small talk, went out for iced coffee and agreed to meet for dinner soon. Paul and I learned we had a lot in common, a love for all things technological, similar musical tastes, both science fiction fans, both came from Christian backgrounds and were active in our faith, etc. The rest is history, as we became almost inseparable. Paul was the sort of person that I had hoped to meet for many years, and when I least expected it, he appeared.
I had made friends in the past, but Paul was different. Most friends kept our friendship compartmentalized away from other friends they had. Paul was insistent that I meet all of his closest friends, as well as his family. He very much wanted me to become an active part of his extended family. I met some wonderful people through Paul; his own family, the extended Spiers family, the Grace church community, Barbara, Mike, Wiley, David, Glen, Pam as well as other friends and associates.
Paul was also quick to share his most cherished places with me, most of all the Summer beach house of the Spiers family in Kennebunkport, Maine. It is obvious why he loved this place so much; Jean, Henry, Hugh, Kate, Hal, Jenny and their children were gracious hosts and welcomed any friend that Paul introduced to them as one of their friends. Their home is a place of warmth, fellowship, laughter and neverending good food. He was truly blessed to have such a wonderful extended family over and above his immediate clan. We made many trips to visit the Spiers, and Paul had truly wanted to make as many trips up to Maine last Summer, but the progression of his cancer prevented this happening.
I also introduced Paul to the small circle of friends that I have, who instantly took a liking to him. All of them said that Paul was one of the sweetest people that they had met. Paul accepted people the way they were.
In my own experience, meeting people like Paul is like a rare jewel. Paul was always a man of great honesty and integrity, who hated injustice, dishonesty, mean spiritedness, and a host of other human weaknesses that are so common today. Paul was always someone that I could count on and trust, and the feeling was mutual. We supported each other, listened to each others gripes, fears and concerns, as well as shared countless memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Paul was also one of the most generous and giving people I have known. He would stop whatever he was doing to help others, even strangers, asking nothing in return.
He was very well liked by everyone. His honestly, open and friendly manner attracted people like a magnet. His trust was child like in nature. I do not know anyone who did not like Paul. He loved people, children, God and church parish life. He loved to laugh.
He had said on a number of occasions, that he strongly felt we would grow old together, sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch and taking stock our lives as old friends do. It was a given that we would be friends and companions for the rest of our lives.
There's an old saying that goes something like, "when the student is ready, the teacher will come." Paul appeared when I needed to learn that there were still good people in my world. In many ways Paul was my teacher as well as a student. We learned from each other, and hopefully grew because of the the lessons. Paul once said to me, "I have learned so much from you." Well Paul, I have also learned much from you, so much that I will carry with me for whatever time I have left here.
I won't focus on the cancer that stole him from us, but only say that he faced it bravely, more bravely than I could. On a number of occasions Paul said, "it's in God's hands." He was a fighter, that's for sure, and had a loving circle of people there fighting with him throughout the course of his illness. He was truly blessed to have such an extended family. As it became apparent that he was dying, a large part of me began to die. I cannot put into words the pain I have felt for Paul during this time, only to say that a part of me has also died, and I feel impoverished because of his passing. There is a part of me that still wants to say that this is all a bad dream, that I will wake up tomorrow and tell Paul about the nightmares I had the night before over morning coffee.
I ask that God bring Paul's family, both biological and extended, a healing of memories and peace. For Paul, I ask that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ clutch him close to his own bosom, safe from all pain and suffering for all eternity, that God prepare a special place for Paul at his table, where there is joy, love and laughter forever. In heaven nothing is ever broken, and all is made anew. I hope Paul doesn't get too bored, as one of his favorite past times is fixing things, as many of you are well aware. I'm sure he'll be up there checking out the plumbing, wiring and getting Heaven internet ready.
Be at peace my friend, and I hope to see you again some day, where we can pick up where we left off. Until then, I will carry you in my heart, which right now is very heavy. Amen
In Christ, Ray
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