It’s been a little over a month now since Br Mark Hallissey died peacefully in his sleep. Come to think of it there is no other way that mark could have passed on but peacefully. To me he was the beautiful old man at peace with himself and with the world around him. The only time I saw him in any way flustered was when we came back with our novices from watching the movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’. He was genuinely concerned for the well being of our faith and that we would risk that of our novices!
That is the kind of person Mark was. Always sincerely concerned! He took such an interest in all around him. On one occasion he called me to find out if there was a problem between myself and some of the domestic staff. He regularly phoned a young widower who had lost his young wife to cancer. On another occasion I recall how he sat with a couple of the novices on the basketball court and talked with them at length about what they were learning in class, especially the recent workshop they had been to on Islam. He frequently engaged the novices in conversation about their lives – never lecturing but always listening to the unfolding of their lives.
My most beautiful memory of Mark is of him by the death bed of Br Chris Wise. Chris had endured a painful battle against a cancer that had wrecked his body. It had come to a time where medication could do no more for him and he had just been given his first dose of morphine. The end was near. I had brought Mark to visit Chris knowing that Chris did not have long to live. When we arrived at Nazareth Home Chris was extremely restless. Mark sat by his side and gently took his hand in his and began to massage his forearm while repeatedly chanting with his inimitable quivering voice, “Be still and know that I am God.” (My hair still stands on end every time I recall that moment) It was evident to all that we had been brought into the tangible presence of God in that room that moment. Chris gradually became so peaceful and calm that it seemed like he was asleep. Mark continued to massage his forearm with love and chant softly. It was as if Mark was slowly wrapping Chris in the presence of God, encircling him in the chrysalis of waiting and stillness before emerging to new life with God. Chris died peacefully later that night.
I believe that, though Mark died in his sleep, he was not alone at that moment. I am certain that the angels of God sang him into that same chrysalis, sheathed in quiet waiting and hopeful stillness to emerge into the glorious light of the loving presence of an enfolding God even now drawing Mark to the fullness of life.