Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meeting Jerry Coniker

I couldn't believe it when I found out that Jerry Coniker died. It didn't seem real. Just a month before at my Grandpa's party, Kathy was telling me how well he was doing. After his funeral in Ohio, Kathy sent me pictures and little descriptions of everything.  Ever since I found out that he died, I have wanted to write about the impact that Jerry Coniker has had in my life. It has been a month now since he died, and, The inspired words have never seemed to come yet, so I guess this is it.
As the years go by, I remember less and less of hat day. Most of that day, and the year before it I'd like to block out anyways. I want to write this down so I will remember it in the years to come. I have the moment written in my lengthy Aunt Virg epic which I wrote right after her funeral. But my focus in that writing was more on Aunt Virg and the events surrounding her wake and funeral. It was a big deal to me that I met him but for whatever reason didn't get a lot of writing space in my long epic.
It was January 25th 2015. We were at Proko funeral home for my great Aunt Virg's funeral wake. This was the third death and funeral for our family in one year. Many people were there, many feelings were felt and there was much activity in the funeral home. We had already been there for hours, some time towards the end at night. I sat down on one of those 1970's styled couches. There was a man next to me who I recognized as my cousin Kathy's dad (later on in life, Kathy and I have gotten much closer) and as Jerry Coniker, I had a rough idea of who he was/what he has done and I remembered him sitting in the very back of the church months ago at my Grandma's funeral, still I didn't think much of it. Most likely, I sat down and was paying attention to something else. Seconds later, he fumbled with a opening a water bottle.  I asked him if he wanted me to do it and he said sure. He then asked who I was and I first said "Dolly's granddaughter" and then I realized that she is dead, so that is inaccurate, So then I quickly said that I am Bruno's granddaughter. Then, as recorded in my Aunt Virg epic, this is what happened, "Then I had to explain my relationship to his daughter and his son in law. Michael (his son-in-law)’s Mom, (Aunt) Cookie, is the oldest sister of my Grandma Dolly (my Mom’s mom). We covered all the bases of-a-good-conversation-with-someone-important: My Grandma's Funeral, Aunt Virg, Me, Where I Live, My Vocation, Catholic Familyland, His Wife, Books he's written, the future of Catholic's in America, Aunt Cookie, marriage, family, vocation discernment, dating, how neither of us could believe how many people were at Aunt Virg's funeral, Grandma Dolly, Grandma Dolly's funeral; I pointed out my Mom, Dad, siblings, and Grandpa Bruno. When Kathy would come over (he's her dad) Mr. Coniker would say things like: "She's a riot!", "She's darling!" and "Are you listening to this girl?!" And Kathy agreed with him every time. And I was just glowing the whole time. After Mr. Coniker left, my Grandpa called me over to explain to me who Mr. Coniker was and about when he went to Rome. (Like I didn’t already know?) Mr. Coniker also kept talking about this book he was going to give me at the funeral. I had my doubts that he’d pull through. But, hey, this was one of the most thrilling conversations I have ever had. It was a huge deal to be talking to him. And then that I talked to him for SO long, it’s quite unbelievable!! "
I don't know how long we had talked for, an hour or more probably. If I was the notebooking person that I am now, you can be so sure that I would have written everything down....I was grateful for our time together at the time, but am even more grateful for it now. What a great blessing our time together was. What I didn't know then, is that summer I would go to Catholic Familyland, I would further grow in devotion to Gwen Coniker and now pray daily to her, how Kathy and I would become closer, how in the last year of his life every time I would see Kathy I would ask her about her dad, how just this past spring (2018) I was thinking of visiting him.....
That next day at St George's cemetery, I watched as his grandkids, two of my cousins and he walked across the snow and ice to the burial for Aunt Virg. A little bit later, before we all packed up to go to the IA, he came over to my sister and gave her the books for me. I was so excited! I received a rosary meditation booklet compiled by him and Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary for Families also compiled by him. The week after the funeral, I began reading daily from the consecration prep book. Now that I have finished reading it, it sits on my desk.
Now, for the last month, every time I go to mass I pray for his soul and every night before bed I say "Jerry Coniker, pray for us" (I realize he is not canonized yet, but I still say that)
At Anne's bridal shower 2 weeks ago Kathy was there and she gave me a Rosary with St Pope John Paul II on the beads. She said touched it to her dad after he died and to her mom's tomb and the rosary is just for me. I couldn't believe it! What a gift!
As I read back on this, It seems as if there is more to the story in my head or something, and that in writing it doesn't seem like much. Maybe its more simple than I thought. I am very grateful for Jerry Coniker, for his example in my life, all the things that he did, and the time we had together to sit at Proko funeral home and talk.

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