“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
Our friend and local scribe Dave Rooks passed away on the afternoon of April 28, 2019. For Catholics who knew and appreciated him, this is a significant date in the church calendar as it is the Feast Day of Divine Mercy. It may seem inconsequential to many, but as Dave and I mentioned in our conversations, “there are no coincidences,” and there wasn’t this day as well.
His writings were about important things. Family, love, suffering, human fragility, faith, life and death. When I first read him in the newspaper, I felt I was his best friend, a kindred spirit. Yet I would not meet him for another six years. I am sure that many of his readers felt the same way when reading his columns. We felt, “Here is someone whose heart feels real things and puts these thoughts into words which are mine as well.”
Dave and his family fought cancer for nine months. I received a call from him last August telling me the news. He spoke sternly that he wanted to be honest about our discussion of it and things didn’t look good. He wanted to make sure we were honest about the suffering to come.
His struggle was well documented in the Rapid City Journal with words only he could compose. Chemo, radiation and surgery would follow. His words lent hope not only to those suffering from cancer and other ailments, but for the caregivers who touched him as he was touched. These caregivers should know that in life or death, they make a difference. He told them so.
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G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God's paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle -- and not lose it.”
As I look back on his life as I know it, Dave has been in this battle with the world his entire life. Reading his book, “A Still Moon and Stars,” with the new perspective of his death, I realize he has always had one foot on earth and one in heaven. Dave fought the losing battle but did not lose it. He is witness to “that one perfectly divine thing.”
It is fitting to return to him for the final word from and for our dear friend. In his column, “Some Scale Mountains,” he ends it with a discussion on death and a friend who has cancer:
“At the last, some final good must come from sorrow. It is too prevalent to lack a divine end. Let grief define the edge of us; it raids past the border to the realm of God. The more we suffer, the more we draw nearer to the Divine Sufferer. One of my friends with cancer recently related this: At prayer in early morning, she wore forlornness like a quilt. At her darkest moment, a meteor crossed the sky. She found comfort and felt embraced. Hearing her, I remembered a mother’s words, Michael, if Jesus calls, run to him!”
“In the end was the Word, and the Word was with Dave Rooks, and the Word was God. Dave was with God in the new beginning.”