A True Friend

I’ve heard it said that if in life you have one or two “real” friends–people with whom you have a mutually loyal, lasting closeness, who will always be there for you and you for them–you are fortunate indeed.

That made perfect sense to me. Yet it strikes me now that I have been blessed with more than a few such true friends; certainly more than I deserve. And it leads me to reflect, with profound gratitude and humility, on how God, throughout my life, has guided me toward various callings–the pro-life movement; principled political campaigns; a career of service to the Church–that have brought me together with faithful, virtuous people who have gifted me with their friendship.

I’m thinking now of one such friend, Kevin Clancy, taken from us five years ago this month.

I had first met Kevin more than 40 years earlier when, as a teacher and moderator of a pro-life student group at a local Catholic high school, he connected with our group, Long Island Youth for Life and Justice. He quickly immersed himself in our work, becoming an effective educational speaker, advocate for pro-life legislation, and political organizer.

I admired Kevin’s independent spirit. A cum laude graduate of Notre Dame, his career prospects seemed limitless. But Kevin wanted no part of being controlled by monetary pursuits or societal expectations. He had such a broad range of knowledge, interests, and talents, and he wanted to be free to follow wherever he felt life was leading him at any given time.

He embarked on a life journey that took him from a gold coast estate on Long Island–where he rented a room while writing a novel–to years later living in a tiny cabin he built on mountainside property in upstate Deposit, New York, roughing it with no electricity and only a wood-burning stove for heat in the region’s frigid winters. 

In between, he stayed involved in pro-life and political activities–managing our friend Bruce Duncan’s state Assembly primary campaign that very nearly upset the then-mighty Nassau GOP machine–and enjoying the social revelry that was always part of who we were as pro-life young people.

Over the years our interactions waxed and waned depending on physical distance and various turns our lives took. But our friendship endured, and we were there for each other during important times in each other’s lives.

Kevin served as an usher in both my and my brother John’s weddings, and was a loving godfather to John and Brenda’s daughter Theresa. In turn, John, Brenda and Theresa were with Kevin through his final days, accompanying him on his journey home to Jesus.

He actively supported my political activities during the 1980s, and years later, when I became editor of The Long Island Catholic, he worked to promote the paper and its mission.  

My brother and I were privileged to assist him with editing as he continued his writing pursuits with a book on the Civil War. Because I had saved copies of many chapters, I was able to help rescue the book when Kevin’s cabin burned down one cold winter night (“my guardian angel woke me,” he told me about his escape), and he lost his computer and discs. While his earlier novel was never published, Kevin’s “Ten Intriguing Questions about the Civil War” is available on Amazon Kindle, as is his “Augustine’s Life in Psalms.”  

When he was diagnosed with cancer, Kevin underwent radiation treatments, followed by surgery. But it had spread too far. John and I were able to drive up and visit him several times, including a very special Palm Sunday when we took him to Mass in the village’s quaint little Catholic Church, then spent the entire afternoon at a little restaurant in town, talking, laughing, reminiscing–and meeting many of the locals whose affection for and friendship with Kevin was so gratifying, if unsurprising, to us.

Months later, when he was buried from that same church, the outpouring of love from the people of Deposit– and of deep sadness at his death but profound gratitude that he had been part of their lives–reflected our own feelings on what he had meant to us as well.

Kevin had immersed himself in the life of that community, contributing to it in various ways. He taught many classes in the local “Summer Fun” program, and for several years operated Seven Pines, a combination Civil War, chess, and education store.

The prevailing culture would view the life Kevin chose as a waste of his extraordinary gifts. But he was being faithful to himself, and to the God he knew was the source of those gifts. He loved the Book of Psalms, and his life conformed to the words of Psalm 62: “Though wealth abound, set not your heart upon it”; for he knew, as the same Psalm proclaims, that “Only in God is my soul at rest.” We’re filled with faith that his is now.

He was a deeply spiritual, prayerful Catholic, and everything he did–his teaching, social and political activism, his daily interactions with the people of his adopted community, and his enduring friendship with those of us from his youth–bore witness to his faith.

We had talked at times of organizing a reunion of the pro-life friends of our youth. It never happened during Kevin’s life; but, inspired by the gathering of some of those friends at a Mass for him back on Long Island, we made it happen–and, although interrupted by COVID, we plan to do so again.   

And so in death, Kevin Clancy left us one final legacy. He drew us together again, renewing and deepening those lifelong friendships built on our shared commitment to and love for God’s gift of life.   

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

6 thoughts on “A True Friend

  1. Its always hard to lose a friend and I am now at the age where this is more and more a realistic possibility. Death and loss are difficult things to contemplate. But , this is the human condition. It is often easy to see the impact that one person can make, for good or ill. It is not as easy to identify these qualities in oneself. All we can do is work with the time God allots us to do as much good as we humanly can.

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  2. thanks Rick for another inspiring post, reminding us the more important things in life than money. May Kevin be rewarded for his pro life efforts.

    Like

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