23 April 2010

Don Porcella, In Memoriam

Don Porcella (2nd from right) with Thomas Malanca (d. 24 Dec 2008) far right, Aggie Malanca (center), Mary Jo Brady (front left), and Bill Johns (behind Mary Jo) outside the chapel at St Perpetua's where he worshipped several times a week.

Wednesday night, April 21st, 2010, Don Porcella died from a long and courageous struggle with cancer. Don had been home from the hospital just a few days, knowing that there would be no further treatment; he died quietly shortly after 10:00 pm. His family had spent the evening with him, and friends/parishioners had been able to be present in the 24 - 36 hours preceding the death to say goodbye.

I had only known Don for a little more than four years (far too short a time!), but he will remain one of the most unforgettable, genuinely inspiring persons I carry in my heart. Don was a Catholic Christian, a husband and father, a scientist (an environmental engineer whose PhD was in environmental health), Fullbright Scholar, professor, and an amazing (and prolific!) potter as well. All of these dimensions of his life came together for me in the imagery of the verse from John 7:37-38: [[If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive. . .]]

In his professional life Don studied rivers and lakes and developed methods for assuring their health and vitality, as Father and husband, friend and fellow Christian he was indeed a source of living water which flowed abundantly and generously from his heart. He listened, encouraged, nurtured and loved others into greater wholeness and fruitfulness. As a potter Don molded the very clay of the rivers, lakes and world he studied into amazing pieces, creating beauty out of more primal beauty. Don was always a scientist and perhaps the best that science has to offer our world. It is so common today for scientists to compartmentalize their lives so that science rules out faith or at best allows some superficial nod to religion. But not so with Don. His faith was deep and critical (and so, unceasingly curious and questioning), and his scientific work and critical approach to reality was faithful (and so, reverent, and lovingly intelligent). He had worked at and managed to integrate what for others would have been merely disparate aspects of a less genuinely intelligent life. In Christ all this came together in a humanity symbolized in the very pottery he made --- a vessel for God's own spirit and life, an earthen vessel from which flowed living water in abundance.

I will miss Don very much, his mind, his humor and impish (or perhaps roguish) grin, his slow and thoughtful speech, his gentle, generous, and loving heart, but I am very grateful to have shared in his life, and to be able to celebrate his eternal life and continuing presence in Christ.

Services will be at St Perpetua's: Vigil 7:00 pm Monday 26.April
Mass of Christian burial, 10:30 am Tuesday, 27. April