At 9:37 pm Rome time, Pope John Paul II went "to the house of the Father" eight years ago today.
For many of us, it was the first time we had seen the lights go out in the papal apartment and seen the shudders closed to signify that we were Papa-less.
For many, John Paul was the only pope we had ever known. And then he was gone.
In the days following, there were tears, long lines snaking through the streets of the Vatican waiting to pass by the body of the late Holy Father for a moment in order to say thank you, to grieve, to be present.
There was the funeral Mass celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger.
There were the cries of, "Santo Subito!" There were the first requests that John Paul II pray for us from heaven.
In the later days of April, there was a conclave. There was the surprise of seeing a cardinal who was close to John Paul II emerge on the balcony, a man who had even prayed the late Holy Father's funeral Mass. There was a sigh of relief, but also an unfamiliarity with seeing another man in white, attempting to wave papally.
It's amazing to think of all that has happened in these eight years. From the tears of losing a dear Holy Father on April 2, 2005, to the joy of his beatification on May 1, 2011, to the welcoming of two new popes -- Pope Benedict XVI and now his successor, Pope Francis.
Even though the Lord has blessed the Church greatly with our leaders in these past several years, it is still true that many of us still miss John Paul. We miss his humor, his smile, his engaging presence, his passion for the youth, his poetic language, his urgency in evangelizing, his witness, his love.
Bl. John Paul II, please continue to pray for us that we too may go to the house of the Father.