I don’t know Amanda Sue Creasey.
Writing her column, In My Shoe (RTD – (5/31/15), she alluded to a place the late Rev. Bob Partlow would revisit often with our Thursday morning group. Creasey told her readers about a Tallahassee taxi driver who warned her of too high expectations: we can create our own manufactured reasons to hurt.
Her driver persisted: What you gotta do is just trust and love each other. We hurt ourselves y’ see. We create our own reasons to hurt – love with a pure heart…that’s in the Bible. Reacting, Creasey self reflected: A habitual hopeless romantic often falls victim to the mistake of expecting too much…often leading to heart ache.
Paradoxically, the late Rev. Robert Partlow, no advocate of the age of identity, would see it as overextended indulgence in…self. “Hallowing (setting apart as holy) our diminishments, he would repeat often. One of Partlow’s favorite observations: “I hope the man I want to be…dies – before the man I am called to be.” I think he would have endorsed New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s warning about a new trinity of “me, myself, and I.”
But it was Rev. Ruth Goodrich Partlow’s hand written note expressing deep gratitude. Partlow’s widow labeled us the St. Stephens men “in the early morning Thursday group.” Her note expressed grace, noting Bob “cherished his mornings with you – the conversation, the interactions, and above all the honesty and care you have for each other.” Her note expressed thanks to our Men’s group when it was surely our indebtedness…to both of them
Rev. Bob Partlow became a total enigma for me. What he set out to do professionally – serving as a Navy nuclear submarine commander – totally responsible for completing military naval assignments, even war; and holding deep concern for the efficiency and safety of his mates. One can only imagine the security he brought to his sub’s crew…. tall order from a tall man.
Later, he’d bring a spiritual hard-edged faith to our table…with a solid mission for us to simply examine the status of our souls – repeatedly.
Revs. Ruth and Bob Partlow were not only married for decades but completed their professional lives together as Episcopal priests – sharing parishes in North Carolina – then Johns Memorial, Farmville, VA; St. Luke’s in Powhatan; The Fork Church in Doswell, VA.
Robin Beres, RTD Associate Editor, recently wrote of America’s current “polarizing times” in almost everything. Partlow absorbed this year’s ago: we do not call each other names or claim “orthodoxy.” In my personal journey, I have crossed the street several time being for…against…for. His priestly view was to make accommodation in community that allows room to seek a deeper faith from where we start.
Then the final journey began – facing death – totally shared, experienced, and distributed, bringing new light in courage, depth, total authenticity. This special, painful individual voyage sailed us from the easily acceptable external man…to one of complete, final authenticity. Partlow shared with us before Christmas that he really had about 22 months worth of preparational work to do; sadly it seemed he might have only 10 months to accomplish it – an interesting knowledge to possess. In fact, he experienced less than 6 from the time of diagnosis. None of us ever know.
Dear friend, George Flowers, and I called on him barely a week before his departure. He leaned up to me, quietly saying, “Ray, all I want to do is sleep – just need more of it”.
Then there was his All Saints Day sermon, November 7, 2010 when he took on death and sainthood. “I am blessed when I mourn because I know that the one I mourn remains now and eternally in the presence and love of God. So All Saints Day is really a time to remember those who have died yet are “in Christ” and never die…Note that in the Book of Common Prayer it follows prayers for the healing of the sick and prayers for the use at the time of death….we are radically incarnational and do not deny the reality and inevitability of death.”
Rector Gary Jones read Partlow’s sermon at his St. Stephen’s Church funeral. The recessional hymn predictable: the Navy Hymn. The giant among us would have it no other way.