I always thought he was so talented and I was happy we had someone like him at our church. Some years ago, when they opened a new church that was closer to our house, my mom wanted to start going there instead...but I refused, saying our choir was WAY better than theirs. Around when I was in high school or college, he reached out to the church a couple of times for new choir members to fill out their empty spots. I remember thinking it would be so cool to try out, but I felt that I might be out of place since the choir age group seemed to fall somewhere between 30-70 years old. However, I thought maybe if someday if I grew up a little more and he asked again, maybe I could try.
From the day he passed away until his funeral, I found out a heap of things about him. I attended his memorial service last night and his funeral this morning and heard so many beautiful stories about how good of a man he was to his family, friends, and faith. He battled cancer for 11 months and from the eulogies it seemed like he didn't feel sorry for himself nor was he afraid -- it seemed more like he was the one comforting and taking care of his family and friends before he left.
Even though I never actually knew him, I found myself crying throughout pretty much the entire time for both services. I pretty much could tell he was a good guy from seeing him in church, but now I knew he was an even better man than I thought. And there I sat, within 10 rows of him, just watching and enjoying his talents for over 20 years never even knowing his name. I'm not really sure what I was expecting -- that he would be there, leading the choir forever maybe? Maybe I felt that now that I'm almost 30, if he were to ever reach out again for choir members, then I'd finally have my chance to try out and actually get to know him. Seeing how much and for how long he loved our church, it really felt like he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. That was dumb of me.
When I stopped seeing him last year, I felt kinda sad and wondered if he moved away. When he returned to the choir a couple of months ago, I felt relieved and happy to see him again. He looked and sounded a bit weaker so I thought, "Oh maybe he got sick or had an operation.." Then he stopped coming again and next thing I knew, he had passed away from cancer. So I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity -- my last opportunity -- to somehow approach him, maybe tell him I was happy to see him again, ask where he'd been...and I let it pass. I blew it. I just thought, "Glad he's feeling better from whatever it was and back again," and expected it to go back to the way things were. I felt so much regret.
At last night's memorial service they played a slideshow of photos and video clips. 2 of the songs they used as background music were his own Catholic songs he wrote and recorded. I cried a lot when I heard it, as that would probably be the last time I'd ever hear his voice. Well, unless someone uploads recordings of his singing online, but that's a small chance.
5 priests ran his funeral service this morning. 5. Some of them were our previous priests I hadn't seen in years, all of whom he befriended during their time at our church. The choir was more full than I'd ever seen it, full of current and past members I also hadn't seen in years. I don't know how they did it, but they managed to sing all his usual songs with such volume and spirit despite the sad occassion... I tried my best, remembering the way he always encouraged the church to sing loudly and lively, but my voice cracked and gave out a lot from wanting to cry. I really wish he could've seen everyone back together like that, singing all these songs he had lead them in over the years. That would've made him very happy. So that I won't forget, aside from his own written songs, they also sang:
-You are Mine
-Sheperd Me Oh God
-I am the Bread of Life
-In God's Great Universe
-Oh Happy Day
I hope I never forget the songs they sang today, or the way he used to sing it with them.
When it came time to receive communion, that was the last chance to come near his coffin and pay final respects. As I walked closer, the tears came out really fast and I couldn't control it. I placed my hand on his coffin and in my mind, apologized for never getting to know him and for being so selfish, just sitting there enjoying his work for all these years without ever expressing my appreciation to him even once. I thanked him for his beautiful music and let go.
R.I.P. Paul C. Seishas.