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missing my friend, Joe


My husband and I have been attending the same Catholic Church for almost ten years now. Soon after we joined, we started counting money. I was looking for something fulfilling to do, I was sort of in a spiritual crisis at the time looking for something more to life rather than just going to work and coming home. This was when I was working full-time, before we had children.

Anyway, our priest suggested I might be interested in helping count the week's offerings. I thought it was a great fit and I enjoyed it immensely. My husband was lukewarm about it; to him it felt like another job in addition to working full-time.

There are roughly six other people who count the money each week after Sunday's first Mass. They are all over 65, most are in their 80s, but they're a fun group of people. They all have their own "jobs" regarding counting the money. My role, when I am there, is to be the head counter who does all of the paperwork, deposits the money at the bank and is responsible the next day if the Church's accountant finds a discrepancy.

These folks crack me up because none of them want to learn how to use the copy machine to make copies of loose checks. None of them want to learn how to use the adding machine to add up all of the checks and cash. None of them want to do anything but what their assigned job is.

Joe makes the coffee and sorts the loose cash. Charlie handles the "special envelopes." Ginny stamps the backs of the checks. Irene and Betty open the regular envelopes and double check the amount in the envelope against the amount listed on the envelope. Tom opens envelopes and takes the wicker baskets back up for the 11:30 am Mass where he also doubles as an usher. As the head counter I also bring a dozen donuts as sustenance to help us concentrate on the job at hand.

When each person takes a donut they leave a dollar in payment. I basically break even after everyone has paid. Everyone likes to complain, after Tom leaves for the 11:30 Mass, that he only leaves 50 cents for the donut he takes. I am the only one who sees that as an endearing trait.

Anyway, I was counting regularly for about eight years or so until I had our third daughter two years ago. I have been taking a break, since the weeks I count I am gone on Sunday mornings from 9:15 am until 1:30 pm. While I enjoy the break from the kids, my husband is not so thrilled with the set up.

I am considering getting back into it, but I have to get hubby on board. It's a volunteer gig and he's not sure he wants to make the time commitment again. Anyway Joe, who makes the coffee and sorts loose cash, also doubles as an usher. I haven't seen him at Mass in a very long time. This morning on the way in I stopped to talk to Betty and found out Joe died on Friday. While it's not so shocking that an 84-year-old man has died, I was still surprised and saddened.

He was so cool and such a nice man. He was devoted to taking care of his wife, Marilyn, who is wheelchair-bound with an amputated foot. He took care of her in their home. I just never thought his wife would outlive him.

He was sort of like a gossipy old hen and I really enjoyed him. He used to sit next to me and the adding machine. We sorted the loose cash together and double counted each other's work. He always had a joke and he refilled my coffee cup when it started getting low.

While I didn't know him extremely well, I did consider him a friend. I will miss my money counting buddy Joe and his friendly smile.

I think I'm going to put a self-imposed moratorium on the grief that seems to be following me as of late. No more grief allowed in this space for at least the next week. And the crowd cheered wildly.


2007-07-22 at 5:20 p.m.

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