Ken Bovey – Part 2

June 13th, 2011 was the 20th anniversary of the death of a friend of mine, Ken Bovey.   Ken died at the age of 32 from scleroderma, a rare auto-immune disease.  This is the second part of the story of the last 10 months of Ken’s life.  It is a story of how one man prepared for his own death.

August 1990

I didn’t speak to Ken before he went to Massachusetts, but he called me from somewhere in New York State on his way home.   He sounded disappointed, as if whatever it was that he wanted to find there didn’t materialize.  We talked about his retreat and then he said, “Pat, will you pray with me?”

“Wow.  Sure, Ken, that would be good.”  I was quite bowled over.  It was another sign that things were not going to go well with his disease; the suddenness of his request cut through my denial of what was really happening.  He was asking me to help him prepare for his death.   “Give me a call when you get back to London, okay?”

When I got off the phone, I knew we had to talk more about this prayer that he wanted.  He knew that I had spent 2 years in Canmore, Alberta learning Zen meditation and martial arts from a Buddhist teacher, but he didn’t know that I had returned to my Catholic faith in 1989.  Ken was a lapsed member of the United Church, practiced yoga, and was a vegetarian.  I didn’t know if he would accept my Christian faith.

After work one afternoon, I went over to his place and sat in the back yard.  I screwed up my courage and said, “Ken, there’s something you should know.  After 2 years of Zen Buddhism, I have returned to my Catholic faith.  I believe in God and that Jesus Christ is his son.  I believe Jesus is the savior of the world.”

“Great, Pat.  That’s cool. No problem.”   I sat across from Ken relieved – and embarrassed.  I had been so nervous about telling him I was a Christian.   Two years before we reconnected, I had told him I was considering shaving my head and going to Korea to practice meditation in a Buddhist monastery.  My Zen Buddhist practice in Canmore had been exotic, and in truth, I was feeling embarrassed that I had returned to my childhood faith.  I confess that I wasn’t much of a convert (I was a “re-vert,” a friend of mine said recently).

“O yeah, I need to tell you something else.  In October, I’m making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, in Yugoslavia.  Allegedly, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing there since 1980.  She’s telling the world that God exists and that the world is in danger of destruction if mankind is not reconciled to God and each other.”

“That’s cool, Pat.”  He didn’t bat an eye.  Again, I felt relieved.  On the surface of things, telling people that I was going on a pilgrimage seemed a real ‘wing-nut’ kind of thing to do (“No!  I’m not going to actually see the Virgin Mary!,” I said in my own defense) .  Yet, Medjugorje and Marian spirituality proved to be a vital source of strength for Ken in the last months of his life.

A few weeks before I left for Europe, Ken gave me a letter that he asked me to take with me.  I felt humbled.   He wasn’t Catholic and I didn’t expect him to react with such a sincere gesture of faith.  I took the letter from him and promised to deliver it.


  1. by Tim

    On July 6, 2011

    your honesty will Ken is what helped him so much. you put yourself out there for him. I’m sure he appreciated it big time.

  2. by Craig

    On July 7, 2011

    Keep writing, Pat. You have a gift! I am enjoying your posts.

  3. by Belinda

    On July 9, 2011

    Hi Pat,
    I can’t think of a better person then you, for Ken to share his journey with!You are a good soul and have a wonderful capability that makes people feel listened to.

  4. by Wendy Blain

    On August 3, 2011

    I’m glad you were honest about your faith, it let you continue the journey together. You are a great writer, you keep me wanting to read more ….. so I shall :) .

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