Last week, I got to see two people who have been saints in my life: Don and Sally Rogan. I hope they don't mind that I reveal their full names. Given that John Green already did so, as he explained that Don was the model for his character The Old Man in Looking for Alaska, I think I'm pretty safe.
I was in Ohio on business anyway, so I can't say that it was particularly good of me to see them. It was, in fact, plain old selfishness on my part, taking advantage of the opportunity to visit, and taking further advantage, as I seem to do every time I see them, of their generosity and hospitality.
I lived in Gambier, Ohio for little more than a year as the assistant rector and Episcopal chaplain at Kenyon College. The Rogans were some of the first people I met when I arrived for my interviews, as they hosted me during my stay. There were ladybugs in the bedroom and I took it as a good sign. On the other hand, the Friday I was there for my interviews, the Kenyon Carillon ringers played "Eensy Weensy Spider," which I also took for a good sign.
Perhaps those two signs were incompatible, or perhaps I was simply putting too much stock in insect/arachnid-related activity because, ladybugs or no, that was a tough tough year that has colored my ministry ever since, for good or for ill. It is the year, as I wrote earlier, that I'm still grieving, though I'm not sure that's totally accurate.
The Rogans remain without question the best thing that happened to me while I was there.
At the time, I had a retired racing greyhound named Sirocco, an ex-jock who loved to sit on the couch and tell you about his days on the track. He developed a limp that I and the vet thought was arthritis, but turned out to be bone cancer. I lived in a second floor apartment. I could have him put down immediately, or find some place for Sirocco not to have to climb stairs.
I called the Rogans. "Oh dear, oh dear," I remember Don saying when I told him what was going on. It can't have been an hour later before they called me back and invited me and my dog to stay with them in their house, for the rest of Sirocco's life. Was it one month? More? I don't remember. I just remember how completely I was welcomed, with no reluctance, no reserve.
Last week when I went to stay with them, I posted about it on Facebook. A friend, who had been a student when I was a chaplain, wrote, "If you are staying in their guest room, that is MY BED. But I will share with you." They taught all of us to share. I will forever be grateful.
Here's John Green's great Rogan tale. Well, one of them. I'm sure he has many more. I know I do.