Yesterday I went to visit Paul.

I met Paul at the cathedral in Ennis about 5 years ago. He was carrying a wooden cross and I made a joke that it was too light!

We became good friends and I even stayed at Paul’s place a few times when I was feeling low.

Paul was about 70 and was the caretaker of the cathedral, he was a remarkably positive cheerful man and lived out in the countryside in a simple cottage that brought me back to my childhood.

We’d talk and listen to Irish music together and Paul was a good cook and I was a good eater so it was perfect!!

Shortly after leaving Ireland I heard that Paul got cancer in his eye and had to have it removed and so I when I met him the last time he had only one eye and a nasty enough scar.

Yet he was full of love and said:

Now I’ve never liked blood or medical stuff so his positive attitude was a real blessing.

He was the same when I told him that I was gay and when I was struggling a few years back. He may not have had the answers but he had love and faith and we’d pray the rosary together at night.

So I haven’t seen Paul for a few years and having the use of my parent’s car I was able to visit him but I wasn’t ready for what was about to happen.

Paul opened the door without any bandage and there was a hole in his head the size of a hand. I could literally see his brain.

I didn’t know where to look as one side of me was overcome with shock and horror while the other side was filled with compassion and curiosity as to what was in there!

As a child I found looking at the inside of a television interesting but I’ve never looked into a person’s head and especially not when they are talking to me at the same time.

However there was a more pressing question, did he even know who I was or remember me at all?!

Yes he did and he invited me in for tea as I endeavoured not to look at the blood on the floor and on the green bits in Paul’s head while marvelling at God that I hadn’t already fainted.

Rayne, a nurse, seemed totally unphased by it and so we sat down and Paul made the tea!

I asked Paul how he was really and he said “we must accept the cards we get, there is always someone worse off’ and yet I could feel his suffering and pain.

At this stage I’d notices things like tonsils inside Paul’s head behind his nose and also something that reminded me of the driving shaft of a car or tractor!

As we drank the tea I thanked God for Paul and his witness of faith and trust in God in extreme circumstances and just like Our Lady, his main concern wasn’t himself but was if we had enough tea and biscuits.

I told Paul about Rayne’s folding bike and he cane outside to see it. I’m glad that there were no kids outside playing because if they saw Paul there might have needed therapy!

Yet Paul wasn’t bothered and I learnt later in the day that he even goes shopping like that at times.

As we drove off I prayed for Paul and it took me a while to get over it and yet I smiled and marveled at his positivity and know that he has a very special place in Jesus’ heart.

Afterwards I popped in on Della, another remarkable woman of faith driving around the place at 87 years of age and laughing and joking despite numerous health issues!

What gives these people such love and joy in the middle of such suffering when others who have far smaller problems are grumbling and complaining and sulking in their boots?!

The answer is obvious, faith and absolute trust in the promise of Jesus and the eternal joy of the resurrection.

Everything in this life is passing; our succeses and failures, our careers and cars, our houses and clothes, our sufferings and problems….except one thing that is, love!

What gives Paul and this lady this overwhelming joy is the gift of love from their faith which they have nurtured all their lives through daily prayer and a love of the mass and Our Lady

My prayer is that my life and your life can also be beakens of light and hope for others and that through our hope that they too may turn to the arms of the merciful Jesus who can turn our misery into joy and our tears into laughter!

Jesus, thanks you for Paul and for his life, help us all to be as hopeful and positive and trusting in our trials and for goodness sake tell him to cover his head when he answers the door!!

Michael