But, with all that, the news of John Paul II's impending death saddens me. While I really don't respect the office - I respect the man. Sure, I violently disagree with him on many things - like abstinence instead of condoms, reproductive rights in general, etc - but I admire what he's done, the background he came from, and the apparent strength of his convictions and his will. And, for me, he's basically *always* been 'the Pope'. I vaguely remember when he was elected in 1978 - I was 7. I remember the process, the colored smoke signaling the election, etc. But I don't remember jack about the man he replaced. So for me when someone says 'The Pope' I have always pictured JP2. Any my adopted family is Polish - Bikowicz - and my paternal grandmother, great-grandmother, great-aunts, etc, were pretty much all very religious. There was/is a Polish community in Schenectady, and they attended a RC church with a Polish priest - who's also been there forever it seems. They had pictures of JP2 hanging in their homes - he was an important figure to them not just because he was Pope - but he was a Pole. They seemed to have a kind of patriotic pride in a fellow Pole holding such a position. I suppose some of that probably rubbed off on me - despite my, genetically, not being Polish. :-)
While I disagree with some of his views, and I can't stomach the church's dogma, to me he is, in the end, a great man. His death will leave a void in the world, he's always striven for the betterment of people everywhere - for peace, for freedom, for decency. He's set a very high watermark - I have the feeling that, no matter who replaces him, they'll seem lesser because of the man they follow. (Bad brain - do not compare that to Jay Leno replacing Johnny Carson...) JP2 has always seemed like a genuinely good, caring man. In some way, I'll really miss him.