Today I visited the San Jose Friend's Meeting, a Quaker community that meets in the oldest Meetinghouse in California, built in 1885. It seems like a lovely small Meeting, with about 40 people in attendance when I was there.
I think it might have been an unusually large group because this was an exceptional ocassion. For this was the last Quaker Meeting for one of their regular attenders, an octegenarian who only had a few days left to live.
As I came to understand later, one of the longtime attenders of San Jose Meeting has been having health difficulties for some time. And recently he stopped being able to eat. So his doctors told him this was his last week on this earth.
The poor man was seated right across from me, a very thin elderly man with a bushy beard and a twinkle in his eye. An IV tube peeked out from one sleeve. He was surrounded by friends and family who came together to bid him goodbye on his last days.
As you can imagine, the silence of Meeting was punctuated by heartfelt and beautiful messages about their ailing friend. I knew nothing about the Friend, but clearly he was much loved and appreciated for his kindness to friends and newcomers, his unwavering commitment to nonviolence, and his delicious lentil soup. It was a gift getting to small peek into the life of someone who had left such an impression on people.
And clearly it was a gift to him, who beamed during much of the Meeting. And while the situation is tragic, I have to envy a little bit a man who has the rare privilege of being present for his own memorial, and who even got to say a few words at the end to his friends and family. So remarkable.
I stayed a bit during coffee hour to visit with Friends there and learn more about Quakers in the area. It seems like a fine community and a good place to find support and nurturing.
This is the first of many Quaker Meetings that I hope to visit in the Bay Area over the next few months. if today was any indication, I'm looking very much forward to it.