Note and Disclaimer: We all know we don't own M*A*S*H and we all write about our favorite characters still. I hope you enjoy story ten of "By the Graveside".
Expressions of comfort were the easiest part. Prayer was always the best medicine in this material world that cared nothing for suffering, shame and poverty. However, many times already, words had failed this guide at the graveside of Henry Blake. Sure, it was easy to beg the Lord to have mercy on his soul and to move him from purgatory, but harder yet to see his own failure to the deceased. As a priest, he had his duties to perform and he hardly succeeded there.
The guide had his own demons he was still conquering and could hardly speak on the matter. He had recently decreased his drinking and was chaplain at a VA hospital, working beside two of his former campmates. At the same time, the war had taken its toll on him, more so concerning this dead man than anything else, and he had to whisper forgiveness. It was Henry Blake that the guide was most upset over. In the short time he had known this officer, the guide had seen much from him and wished for even more.
Sure, Henry Blake was a somewhat of a womanizer, drinker and gambler. Who wasn't in the 4077th? The guide turned a blind eye to it unless it was beyond the normal levels. He was the sole caretaker of souls within the camp, the man people went to for spiritual advice when they were troubled. He cared nothing for their actions for the Lord said to never judge. He merely pointed out here and there of their careless activities and joined them in a few rounds of poker. Even so, nobody listened to him.
For the Lord never said it was a sin to enjoy a good game.
But that was not all. At times, the guide was devastated by his lack of action. While he easily admonished all of the youngsters (mostly the surgeons and the nurses), he was hesitant where this colonel was concerned. He was afraid of that authority. If he corrected a man who was set above the rest (in matters of Earthly Army command of course), then there was no real authority on that already shaky ground. It was bad enough that there was constant opposition and a tug-of-war match between several parties. Spiritual matters did not seem too weighty on Henry's mind.
And the guide could not blame him. However, he felt the heavy mantle of his shoulders, unable to take the absolution he should have given Henry. He should have lent his hand, driving Henry away from those temptations. Granted, there was no way to walk away from poker (the guide wasn't able to either). There was the adultery and the inappropriate material sent from Cuba. There was excessive drinking and smoking, to the point of sickness. Tongues wagged with words best left to a brothel. And those sick, dirty jokes! The guide felt his stomach churn with the memories.
But there was no way, no way he could have. The distractions from the camp activities would be too great. The guide still chided himself. Would the end results be different? Would he have had to push the others along as well, to remind them of their great positions? Was it possible that allowing them to sin was the greatest grace?
For Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, it was a tough choice. If that energy had been spent elsewhere, it might have been more destructive than it was. In Henry Blake though, it was all in harmless fun. Although he had to admit that his sense of humor was a little on the odd side, he still carried within him a swelling sort of pride that squashed some of his guilt. Oh, it was a sin too, to be flattering of things that are not in the Lord's image, but it was worse to stand by a role and force it to destroy others.
Father Mulcahy did not feel as useless as he once was. During the Korean Conflict, he eventually found a place within the family he grew to love. While many characters had changed and moved on, he was able to stand back and proudly be not just their guide, but their friend as well. It might be too late for Henry Blake, past the time for Last Rites, but God always gave everyone a chance. In parting his initial visit, the Padre had to give Henry one last gift.
Through this holy unction, may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen…