Jul 21, 2009

Fr. Floyd often spoke of himself in the third person. "Fr. Floyd knows his responsibility to the poor," he would say, "Fr. Floyd also knows the grace of God."

In the beginning, Floyd had an outrageous desire to be graced by the media as well, which is how I met him, more than 20 years ago. Then, he was a dashing Franciscan priest, in his brown robe and proud piety, or else his Giant's warm-up jacket and matching cap.

Next to God he loved celebrities. "Did I tell you I met Obama?" he said to me a few months ago. "A good man. I was impressed. And I was very direct. I asked him, 'what are you going to do about the poor.' He looked me right in the eye, I liked that, he looked me right in the eye and I think it caught him a little, but you know how Fr. Floyd is, and he said it was going to be a real priority.' No, I think he's going to be a great president. I was very impressed. He makes me think of Rooseveldt."

Fr. Floyd could never have worked with the poor had he not had equal access to the rich. For years he had a patron, a Nob Hill matron, a stocky, sexy blonde if I remember, who invited him to dinner and introduced him to the hoity-toity. And they would turn to him at dinner and as much as pat him on the head for his work with St. Anthony's diningroom and living down next to St. Boniface as he did, and then later out in the Mission District. "What is that like, working those people?" they would ask. "How do you do it?"

In fact, he did it very well, although I didn't accept that until the last time I saw him. I took him to a Thai restaurant over behind the Hall of Justice. A few months earlier we'd had dinner and he was off his game. He looked terrified. He had nothing to say.

Today, was his funeral and he would have been happy to see a full house and of course the archbishop, who was separated at birth from Dick Cheney, and a handful of friars, who looked as though they'd been separated at birth from reality, not to mention a comb or a wash cloth, they looked like a disheveled bunch of night afters, folks still on the Bataan death march, and ne'er do wells, not that you have to be a brill cream man to be a friar, but the look of kempt and some projection of hopefullness and well being would have helped, and there was also the Speaker of the House's husband, and various cops and people Floyd worked with at the foundation and people who just came in off the street to see what all the music was about. The whole service was like a musical, as the woman standing next to me said.

They wheeled in the casket and you'd thought he was being buried in Afghanistan; the coffin was that simple. A lot of people got up and said what they could, which wasn't much in most cases. Fr. Finian gave the eulogy and it would have made Floyd weep. No one knew him better than Finian who is the real lineage in the order. What's left of it. Looking at the friars you wondered whether the effort was about over. All of them over middle age, save a few who looked distinctly gay. Fr. Floyd said they were nearly all gay and he was worried about that.

As the incense was pitched to the four corners and sallow-skinned church bureaucrats presided over the mass and the parishonners got their transsubstantiation and people wept, because it was sad, no question, and while police horses pawed at the cement outside and two traffic cops gabbed in the middle of the street, and some kid came up to the side door with his boombox on high, and after Paul Pelosi got up and talked about how wonderful it was that Fr. Floyd had been able to work with 'those people', he actually said that, and you thought, 'Paul, you're not at the Gettys now, you're actually talking to 'those people,' ' but the speaker's husband didn't care, it's just never occurred to him — he had a mustard-colored kerchief in his breast pocket and stood stiffly like a mannikin in a store window — he was just here to say, on Nancy's behalf, what a great loss this is, and thank you to the foundation for all you've done, that was his real thrust, and then Dick Cheney's twin, the archbishop, got up and said he had the last word, and first he had a joke to tell about how Floyd wore a Dodger's shirt under his Giant's jacket, and then he rattled on about Matthew 24 and 34 and you wanted to yell out, "hike," and afterwards he ended with the fearsome promise that God has the last word and there was something in the way he said that left you with the impression that his God does not take personal phone calls and will be out of the office all this week.

"I think Fr. Floyd was well represented here, don't you think?" Floyd would have said to me after the service, and then he would have relished the details, the nuances, the back stories and he would have wondered how the TV stations would play it, because at least two stations were there, and he would have wanted to insure the press releases went out and he would have been miffed that his death was not better played the day after he died, and he would have wept to hear his sister's rememberances...

At that last dinner we had, he didn't speak in the third person. The affectation was gone. The fear in his eyes was gone. Resignation but not fear. Even his loneliness was over. He was face to face. He said, "I don't really believe in it anymore." What's that, I said. "The church, I don't believe in the institution. I love the people but I don't think..." He let the point go.

Later, I dropped him off and I had to help get him in the door, moving between sleeping homeless, and he seemed genuinely happy to be home.

If I'd given the eulogy I would have said how Floyd might have once thought of the poor as 'those people' but at the end he was saying to himself, and believing it for once that, "we are all 'the poor', we are all naked and strangers, we really are no different, and there is no duality and God will grant us His grace and that's all we can believe in but it's enough...."


Gretchen G. said...

That is a very nice story about a very nice preist. I feel like I was there. Thank you for sharing your story. It made me feel good and it was funny about Cheney. I haven't seen anything about the funeral except what was in the papers beforehand.

He was a good, kind man with a heart of gold. i wish i could of gone to his funeral but one of my cat's had to go to the vet's. He has blessed all of my cat's over the years. Maybe a total of 25. They all seemed calmed by him, except for the one who bit his finger, Bruce I think, or Roger maybe. I can't keep track. They were both high strung even for cat's. He didn't say anything but "don't worry about Brother Floyd. He is fine. We are all god's creatures, and sometimes that means a little pain". I know that to be a fact. I am pained by the loss of this good spirit and hope he is with all my departed babies.

Anjuli said...

Although I never have heard of Fr Floyd before reading this- I met him in this write up. Thank you.