So many good things have happened, as they often will, as time passes. Jack's healing from his back surgery has gone very well, though now he's working up the nerve to call about a hip replacement. He's fishing and golfing some. Meanwhile, I'm having (minor, I hope) trouble with my knee. Such is aging. . .and these are the topics of conversation we sat through with our elders, and were never going to revert to ourselves. I can hardly believe it. . .opening a blog post this way, no less!
In March, Sarah and I met in the Quad Cities and spent time with Daniel and Lilia, the last time I've seen them. Thank goodness for texting and Facetime! Lilia got promoted to Fourth Grade. Already? Fourth Grade? It seems that once they start school, time speeds up. I'm certain all grandparents and parents have this same feeling.
In May, I finally took the retreat I had originally scheduled for January, which was preempted by Jack's back surgery. When I originally planned the retreat, we didn't know about the surgery OR the baby. Sometimes things work out for the better, huh?
Already the middle of the month, and Lent has begun. Everything seems to have piled up around us, including quite a lot of snow, interrupted routines and life rhythms, and I seem to have lost touch with myself lately. I miss walking. I miss writing. I miss solitude. I miss feeling rested and alert.
Ancestry.com, I Love You. I just happened to look at my messages there, and found one from a second cousin with whom I had hoped to connect. I answered her reply to my message dated a year ago (!) and she wrote back. We have plans to share information and talk on the phone. This, because Peggy and I both did our DNA testing.
Aunt Grace, We Love You. When Mary called Aunt Grace the week of her birthday to see if she would like a visit, Mary learned that Aunt Grace had already made plans, so they just had a little catch up visit on the phone. Mary learned that because of macular degeneration, Aunt Grace can no longer drive. This meant she hadn't been able to go to Curves for three weeks. But she did get to go to church and out for breakfast with friends on Sunday, and then to the Casino until 4:30. And she still goes dancing once a week. Aunt Grace just turned 98.
Back Surgery, We Love You (I think). It's been a whole week since Jack had major back surgery for stenosis, called a Lumbar Laminectomy. This involved four vertebrae and left him with a nine-inch incision. (We took pictures, but he's not interested in having me post them here.) I'm happy to report he's done very well with the surgery, has very little pain, is walking much more freely, and came home on Thursday. (Thank you so much for all the prayers, support, concern, and good wishes.) I've also noticed that I'm not carrying all that pre-op stress in my body, and I am sleeping better. And, I suppose I can get away with this:
Since this was a nearly five-hour-long surgery, I planned to hole up in the waiting room with books and plenty to write about. But we also had to show up at five a.m. so instead I slept and snacked and people watched and texted people and thought--a long day. I ended up staying all three nights with Jack in the hospital, not so much because he really needed me there, but--you know--just because. To be sure.
As I write this, I'm listening to the tribute to B.B. King on the Grammy Awards, and remembering when Daniel and I saw him in Des Moines back in 1991 or 92. My then fourteen-year-old son nudged me during the show and said, "See that guitarist up there?" "Yes?" I said. "I'm better than him." I think I said something like, "Then how come he's up there, and you're sitting next to me?"
(What is it they say about teen-aged boys?)
Auto Zone, I Love You. While Jack was in the hospital someone pointed out to me that I had a headlamp out on my car. I called our local Auto Zone to ask about replacing it. The gentleman I spoke with said something like, "2000 Solara, I'm not sure. . .that may be the one where you have to take off the bumper to get to the bulb." You know the kind. . .
So I went over there and encountered Delbert, the Auto Zone Angel. When one very helpful guy located the dead bulb and couldn't get it to budge, he asked Delbert. Delbert stood there with me in the 19 degree parking lot and tugged. And tugged. Until he pulled out the old bulb and I handed him the new one. (In the store, I'd played the "my husband's in the hospital" card.)
Phone Store, I Do Not Love You. For me, this was much more difficult than Auto Zone. In the Phone Store, it seems, everything goes against logic. The battery in my phone died and it cost more to buy a new battery (and pay someone to put it in) than it did to replace the phone. Jack and I spent an inordinate amount of time going over options with Dillon, the Phone Store Devil, till Jack finally said, "I need to write this down." Once the phone decision was made, we moved to the wall of cases. There were so many choices and "bundles" and special offers, I finally said, "Dillon, I am so confused I've already stopped listening to you. Can I just tell you what i want?" "Uh, Sure." he said, stopping himself for a second. . .When I showed him, he immediately asked, "Do you want to add. . .?" No!!
While he set everything up (I will say he thoroughly knows his job, he was respectful and polite, and seemed to understand that I needed him more than he needed me.) and I sat there wondering when replacing a cell phone became an emergency in my life??? "It's my connection with the kids," was the only answer I could come up with at the moment.
Reading, I Love You. When I posted the photo of my happy little book stack on my last blog post, I thought I should mention some of my current reading. It's a long and varied list: Evelyn Underhill's classic Mysticism. About halfway through, I think. Revisiting Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee's The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul. My most recent issue of Parabola, a quarterly must-have feast on spirituality. Going Driftless, a collection of essays by Stephen Lyons on the Driftless region and its people and culture, which includes southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and northwest Illinois. (Some debate as to whether Minnesota and Iowa should be included.) The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault. Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing. Oh, and The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, which includes this intriguing thought: "Sometimes the key arrives long before the lock." I'm also listening to Marcus Borg's final book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, on Audible.
Going Out on a Limb, I Sort Of Love You. Though not a big limb, or maybe I would rather it would be a big, fat, sturdy limb. I applied for a month-long residency in New Mexico to write on my novel. (Not my novel, but my other novel--the story set in New Mexico.) Don't tell, but I can't imagine that I can actually hope to have a shot at this, but it's worth a try, right? And I actually heard back! The message was, "Thank you for your interest and good luck Deb!" Sounds promising, doesn't it!! I will know something in March. Only a month from now. Not too bad. Do I sound anxious?
And Jesus, I Love You. Once again the very difficult subject of teenage suicide, the fifth in our community in four years. But there was something different about this one, and it's very difficult to put into words. Sam was not one of the popular kids, the show choir or band or star student or athlete kids. With the previous deaths, we saw droves of high school students gathering over and over again to process and grieve, and an outpouring of support and concern from the area churches and the school. Not so with Sam. With Sam, there was mostly silence. When I realized this was happening, I decided I wanted to go to Sam's memorial service, so I attended with two friends. I didn't engage much, or even talk to Sam's parents. I simply listened and observed and later wrote my thoughts and observations. I'm still thinking about it, but here are some things I noticed: Kids. There were so many kids at Sam's funeral. Four from our church. But not the Johnston kids with whom I usually have contact through my work--the athletes, the musicians, the top students who move along a different cultural strata. Frankly, it was sort of a rough crowd. I don't know how else to say it. These were kids who have tough lives, and it shows. Where are they all the time? Why do I never see them? Are they invisible? And i can't help but remind myself, these are the kind of folks with whom Jesus preferred to hang out. . .they were his personal favorites, the ones he actually likes better than he likes me.
The pastor had a tough job. But he delivered a beautiful eulogy, followed by an excellent sermon, and a compassionate challenge to all of those rough, beautiful people. He had sat with the parents at the hospital from Tuesday night to Friday afternoon. He knew and loved this family, and he spoke with honesty and humor and anguish and mercy about all of the many aspects of the way Sam lived and the way Sam died. I won't soon forget it, and I am certain I will never forget the poignant message Sam's dad wrote to the transplant team who harvested Sam's organs: "Don't judge my son for what he has done. Think instead of what he is about to do: Because of Sam, five people and their families will have life." This, along with a cautionary note for whoever receives Sam's heart to hold on for the ride!
Funk, I Do Not Love You. (Please Go Away.) Recently I wrote in my journal that I awoke looking for something identity-related, aware that I don't belong or "fit in." Am I a healer, a shaman, a teacher, a guide? Maybe I have already undergone the long initiation. Am I native American? Am I Celtic? A blend of what? Am I or am I not a writer? A lover? And I feel so stalled out with obstacles, time wasters, trivia--too dependent upon others to motivate me--or to whom I can respond, react, seek direction, etc. Feeling flat. Does everyone feel this way? Is this just February-ness?
This is the season of muck and thaw, the messy melt and runoff between snowstorms. On this fifty degree day, it's hard to believe the calendar still says January, but also hard to believe, with the promise of the next big blizzard's arrival on Tuesday, that spring could be a mere six weeks away. It's an in-between time, and none too pretty.
And, yet, I couldn't help notice the changes in the light on my afternoon walk, and the sound of children's laughter echoing from the nearby park. So, as with everything else this week, it's a real mix.
Monday morning, we celebrated Jack's birthday with presents, a card, and a request: would you please be sixty-five with me? There was some reluctance on his part, but it's going pretty well despite that.
And here is a thought that creeps in fairly frequently at this stage: what to do with the time I have left? How to make the most of it? Time goes so fast, it seems, and, yet, I'm learning that the best way to slow it down is not just to slow down, but to try and be fully present. As Llewelyn Vaughn-Lee says, "the present moment is alive in its own way, complete, and perfect." Not something we often think about, since many moments we're just trying to get through, waiting for something or enduring something, and many moments we miss altogether through our own lack of awareness.
So, in actuality, the answer to "what to do with the time I have left" is something like this: Live the present moment because the present moment IS the time you have left.
Also, our friend, Lynn, had to leave town on a business trip that morning, knowing her mother was dying. I sort of just held that in. my heart until Wednesday, when I learned that Lynn was home, the hospice nurse had called, and they were to come. Lynn missed her mom by fifteen minutes, but they had made their peace, and she felt in some ways it might be easier for both of them if she wasn't there.
We got snow all afternoon Monday, and into the evening. After dinner, I went outdoors. It was a beautiful night, calm and beginning to clear. I could see stars, and a bit of the moon. I came back in and told Jack I wanted to go out and shovel, and could he let me do that without feeling that I expected him to help? "Tomorrow morning, you mean?" he asked. "No. Right now." I was out for about forty-five minutes. It was heaven.
Tuesday we met with the surgeon, a good experience, and Jack's back surgery is now scheduled for February 8th. It took a minute for that to sink in, because we were expecting them to say "March." That's like. . . a week from now! He feels ready.
Tuesday evening, we had our monthly GALZ gathering, with a wonderful speaker. Lots of women, lots of warmth, and lots of laughter. Dianne Morris Jones was our guest, and she talked about self compassion, and shared her books with us: Stop, Breathe, Believe, and I'm Fine: A Feelings Journal.
To learn more, click on Dianne's book cover:
When Barbara arrived, though, she pulled me aside to tell me her niece's friend, Sam, had shot himself. He was on life support, and not expected to survive. Sam died yesterday afternoon, the fifth student in four years in our community to die from suicide. We're grappling with ways to address these tragedies.
Wednesday morning at Bible study, we spoke at length about what it's like for today's families, the complexities and pressures they deal with, what they need from us, how to help. We prayed and got into a study of Esther. We're wanting to get into what Pope Francis is saying to us about Mercy. . .which we plan to begin by mid-February.
At noon I planned to meet Jackie and Ryan, friends from Tennessee, and two of my favorite people. It turned into a three-hour-long visit, with lots of warmth and stimulating discussion. I learn from them. And truly love them.
Wednesday evening I stood in the Gathering Space talking with a parent. When class ended, Andrew's son ran over and grabbed his hand. "Dad?" he said, "Can we go to Mass this weekend?" "Sure, I guess so," he said, looking a little puzzled.
They headed toward the door, and I went back to visit with one of our catechists.
"Hey, Brian. . .did you just happen to ask your students to invite their parents so Mass?" With a wry grin he said, "I didn't think it could hurt."
On Thursday I emailed all of the catechists and told them the story, reminding them of what we already know. Personal invitation is the best way to help families become more deeply involved in parish life. It never hurts to try!
I met with my writing partner, Carol, on Thursday afternoon. Miraculously, after the writing on Saturday evening, I had some decent copy to send over to her. She is coming off of NaNo WriMo, the November writing marathon, with the purpose of completing a novel in a month's time. She did it! Now she's hard at work pulling it all into a complete (not necessarily polished) first draft. Her assignment for me: Write about your character as if her story is a fairytale. (If she could, I believe Carol would also have me "caucus-ing" Monday night!)
Friday I met Cathy for lunch. Not a long, long lunch, but a fun one. We talked about the Divine Feminine, and what it means to be women. We talked about retreats, and when you reach that place of losing interest in something, and how it can mean you are about to move to the next thing. We talked about creativity. We talked about her spiritual director's take on the elephant in the room--that when there's an elephant in the room (This is not to say, of course, that Cathy has any elephants in her room.), the mice get big out of proportion, or we ignore the mice altogether. Mice? Maybe she should consider changing spiritual directors.
And she sent me this (a journal page based on my last blog post):
And the moment I left Cathy, I witnessed a car crash, can you believe it? It happened so fast, and right in front of me, and I saw it coming. At the same time, so odd. . .as soon as it was over, I couldn't remember what happened; not even which car was coming from which direction. It took me a while to reconstruct it in my mind, and I'm still not sure.
And today has been down time. . .lots and lots of it. And pajamas and two long phone conversations with Cheryl and Audrey, and a good, long walk.
(And time to think, and to be and to reflect. It's been an eventful week. Good, and sad, and hard, and demanding, and beautiful. And on the way back, I stopped at our Little Free Library, which is a frequent stop. I rarely find anything, sometimes leave a book or two, and today I found two books. (Just what I need. More books.)
If you're not familiar with LIttle Free LIbraries, you can learn more here:
2016 has gotten off to a shaky start for me in some ways, while in others not so much. I began to notice during the holidays that there were so many moments of feeling "out of sync."
Little incongruities kept popping up, like the time I went in to Hy-Vee to mail a package and the woman behind the counter had it all rung up and suddenly announced, "I can't meter this package for you."
"And that means. . . ?" I said.
"That means you have to mail it someplace else, unless you want to wait for my manager."
"And your manager is. . .?" I said.
"It's a phone call, and it will take about a half an hour."
I call these pop quizzes.
Then, early in January, Sarah told me they never got the sheets we sent. I called about them, and learned they had printed the mailing label, but never sent them. They never notified me, and now they were out of those sheets.
In the middle of all this, somewhere, Jack's truck quit. This was over New Years weekend, our anniversary, in fact. We managed to get it over to the shop where he takes it, and he started thinking about newer used trucks. Pretty soon he said maybe it meant more sense to get a car. (How odd, I thought. . .why would he want a car? Then I realized he meant it made sense to trade my car.) I decided I could be neutral about that. It does have 252,000 miles on it, but I like my car, and I trust it. We looked around some, test drove something, got the truck fixed, and decided to not do anything for a while.
I also experienced many moments of surprise, joy, and synchronicity--those little moments that came together unexpectedly, like when I got two new dinner plates for free, and the free movie and medium popcorn for two that showed up on my Facebook feed. Jack and I used the offer to see Concussion, one of the best movies I've ever seen, hands down. When the movie ended, we sat together in the dark theater and talked about all the things we enjoyed about the film, one being that it doesn't demonize or make you feel you should hate football. (A pretty good insight for me, considering I don't really care for football.)
And isn't it so nice when those things happen? I much prefer the free dishes and movie with medium popcorn lines to the broken meter machine and faulty mail order business and the breaking down car lines, don't you? And it can be a little disorienting when these things keep occurring together. . .the easy alongside the difficult, with no real way to make sense of it all.
And along with all of this, I notice I've been carrying a lot of tension in my body over the idea of scheduling Jack's back surgery. It's okay, we're getting it done now, we've met with the surgeon and we feel confident about that much. But I didn't sleep well for a couple of weeks because of this crazy thing going on in my jaw. (I've solved it mostly, by now, with changing pillows and consciously unclenching my jaw. Yes, I said consciously. In my sleep. A session of Healing Touch has been a tremendous help, too. (Surgery for Jack isn't scheduled, yet, but he's getting there. It should be mid-February sometime, and they will address the stenosis. A little hospital time and about a month recovery.)
So early in the month, I got to present a SoulCollage® workshop, something that is a lot of hard work and a lot of fun; and later that week I'd been asked to speak for a group of amazing, beautiful women at my church. I was scheduled to be there at 6:30, and at 5:45 I was sitting on the couch eating soup, and saying to Jack, "I wish I could stay home."
"But I think I'll go change clothes."
"Why are you changing clothes?" he asked.
"I'm not in top form," I explained, "and I think if I wear red I will at least look like I am."
On the way over, I thought about this. The topic was "Finding God in the New Year." Right. . .and I asked myself, "Would they rather I give them this nice little spiritual talk, or would they rather I tell them how it really is?" If it's true, as I like to tell people (ala Paula D'Arcy), that "God comes to us disguised as our life," then all of this must have something to do with finding God.
Soon as I walked in, I heard three people say, "I wanted to stay home tonight. It's so dark out, it's so cold. . ." So we went with the latter. I told them how it really is. And we talked about how we find God, even when it's dark out, and so cold, and we don't really want to be doing what we're doing right now.
So those were the challenging-yet-easy-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things parts of the New Year, thus far. The hard parts have been the illnesses, the deaths, the loss and the sadness. I was out on a stunningly beautiful Saturday morning when Sheila called to say her daughter was dying. Helen was fifty-four, "our first" Sheila says when she speaks of her. Dorothy's daughter, Pam, has been moved to hospice. They are hoping Pam will make it to her birthday next week, when she will turn fifty.
I opened an email for Terry's Caring Bridge to learn she had been ambulanced home to Iowa from New Jersey, where she had been receiving cancer treatment. All Terry wanted was to be home. Terry is Lilia's other grandma, Beth's mother. She died on January 9th, surrounded by family, along with her parents, who are in their eighties. I was grateful to learn from Lilia that she got to go see her grandma, and that Terry was awake for the visit.
And now Lynn has moved her mom to hospice, and Linda's husband texted to say Linda fell on the ice yesterday, and broke her femur. I got to see her, briefly, before they took her in to surgery.
These go far beyond the pop quizzes I mentioned. These are the hard tests and trials that also come with life, the experiences that somehow hold graces for us, which, if we open our hearts we will recognize. Sometimes those arrive only through hindsight, of course.
January also always puts me in touch with Eddie's death, my first husband, who died so young of lung cancer.
On Saturday, I was holed up in a nice hotel in West Des Moines, a Christmas gift from Jack, so I could write on my novel for a couple of days. I thought I would dive in and write away the time, strike on new energy and insight. You know, go to town.
I dove instead, into yet another layer of grief, and thought, "Oh, damn. . .here it is again."
Only it's not truly "again" so much as it is "still" and it's not even the same old "still" but something new and unprocessed, because it is observed from a different life stage. I began to do some thinking about how in the world I got from there to here. . .how a thirty-five-year-old suddenly single young woman with her whole life before her, as they say. . .became the sixty-five-year-old grounded, joyful, purposeful woman I am today.
I'm not sure I ever let go of the other losses that went with the losing of Eddie's life and presence with us--the death of dreams, of letting go of hopes for a different outcome, and plans for a different future.
But even as my thoughts turn to forging a life for my future self now--how to fulfill my vocation and be of service to the world in the time I have left, I remember how it happened thirty years ago: A friend of ours flew up from Atlanta and offered to give me some vocational testing, which revealed that I would do well in an academic setting. Because of that, I decided to return to school and finish my degree.
Because I chose to go to Drake, I made the decision to sell the acreage we lived on and move into town. After about a year, I realized I wasn't, nor had I ever really been, good at being a Baptist, so the kids and I started going to Westminster Presbyterian. I chose Westminster because I liked the building, and I felt that the worship style would better suit my contemplative nature. It did, but I turned out not to be a very good Presbyterian, either. (Once again, my liminal woman status at work.) I loved the people and loved the first couple of years there, where I was allowed to hide out in a big church and begin to heal, but it isn't my theology (which must not have caused me that much conflict since I ended up staying four years).
And then, critical to my unique path in the world, after I'd been at Westminster just a few months, Joyce Rupp was invited to offer a series of Tuesday morning reflections during Lent. My First Lent. She invited me into her spiritual journey group, and I stayed six years. My time with Joyce forged something in me that has given the rest of my life shape and substance, a touchstone that enables me to remember who I truly am and want to be.
This is not the smooth, steady movement from one logical thing to the next that it sounds like. This is the red thread of my story. Aside from this thread, I was flinging myself around all over the place, it seems, pursuing things I thought I wanted, combating loneliness and Third Grade homework assignments, trying to keep family connections strong, trying to figure out what sounded fun, wondering about relationships, hoping to survive. . .all the things thirty-five-year-old single mothers do.
So this is where the spiral that is grief took me on Saturday, the thirtieth anniversary of Eddie's death. And pretty much all I could do, I found, is sink into it, feel and reflect on it, and gaze out this third floor window at the bare trees:
Because, if I have learned anything from grief, it is that we must honor it. It will not lie down and behave, or go away, or allow itself to be circumvented or truncated or ignored. Honoring grief means to enter and pay attention to it, and to give to it the time it requires. I know this, even though I still feel resistance to following what I know.
And then, I pulled out my laptop and wrote and wrote and wrote, all evening. And maybe I got more done than I would otherwise if I'd made myself keep pushing.
I believe so.
Again, these are lovely days, clear and unseasonably warm for early November, which sparks much gratitude. This past Saturday, however, not so much. Except for the gratitude part, that is. We awoke to rain and gloom and cold. Then a group of us gathered at St. Cate's to hear Fr. Larry Gillick.
Fr. Gillick is a Jesuit and spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition, known as "The Exercises." You can find his writing here:
You may also wish to look at the Online Retreat in Everyday Life here:
Fr. Gillick first spoke of spirituality as Real Living. Living the tensions caused by our theology, and what we believe about God. Living in relationship to the God we will never understand because God is Mystery. "Trusting sucks" and we want clarity (a God-O-Gram), but what we get instead is spirituality.
Following are some Highlights:
The Exercises challenge and address our Image of God.
The nature of God is to reveal God's self to you "according to you." This is essential to our spirituality. We don't "go to God." We come to ourselves.
Ignatius asks, "Who am I? Who are these others? What are the things around me?"
It's important to pay attention and to know what delights us and attracts us. God comes to us where we are: How am I usually found? What finds me? How much have I been attentive to the aggressive love of God and God's activities?
"God will never give you anything that will make God obsolete. God keeps giving you things that make God necessary. Everything God gives us has an embedded invitation to trust God and to trust Life."
Everything Has a Hole In It.
Everything will disappoint me. We get mad at anything that won't deliver what we want. We ask for infinity from the finite. We ask for completion from what will let us down. As long as I am longing for the infinite, everything will give me a certain amount of bad news.
I am finite. I will be disappointed in anything that reminds me that I am incomplete.
The object of the Exercises is freedom from the illusion of self-containment. The Gospels say the same thing.
And we will tend to move toward independence, self-containment, self-creation, and isolation because we can't stand the tension knowing this creates for us.
Everything becomes a soft discipline in that it will serve as a reminder, if we receive it.
I am a creature, and I am constantly being created. We are made to be co-creators with God because God is Love, and Love constantly creates.
At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is this: The Great Praise of God is our acceptance of our being creatures. The struggle is to say "thank you" for creating me as I am, so that I can enter into God's creation of myself. The Pattern of Grace will always move from gratitude for what is to sadness for the way I have responded to it (justice), to receipt of God's finding me, and a response of welcoming, even if it involves suffering. It is a pattern towards Freedom.
We are rooted in the goodness of God, reverential to God by being reverential to creation and in just relation to God. This is gratitude.
*How I live because I pray:
God's love for me makes "me" a "we."
We need to have a psychologically healthy spirituality.
Jesus doesn't take away self and give us another self. Jesus asks, "Can you return to your true self? Can you pray yourself to your essence? We all get out of focus, and knowing that about ourselves equals humility. What are the parts of my slavery? Honesty does not eventuate to negativity.
It's a butter knife, not a screw driver:
Sin is changing God's name for things and using them for my satisfaction.
When I violate myself I change God's name for me to my name for me. [Name for Jews in Egypt = "slave"--Name for Jews after the Exodus= "God's People"] Healing [forgiveness] is always from something, for something.
Admission: I have selfish patterns and I am not going to save myself.
MERCY is not litigious or judicial. In Hebrew, "mercy" comes from the root word "womb"--the mother's experience of being reverential towards the life within her and the life outside her; of forgiveness of her child. Mercy is biological, emotional, spiritual, relational.
What is it like to have grace [not for eternity, but] in my life right now?
Fr. Gillick, in speaking of the Mystery of God, referred to Keats's negative capability -- that we are indeed capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. We are capable of remaining content with half knowledge.
And we should watch our daydreams. They will always lead us to something good about ourselves.
Jesus will always ask me to let go of what isn't me. Intimacy with Jesus allows me to be available especially to adventure and the unknown. Real Freedom = How do i deal with the unknown? Need is creative of revelation.
To not be in control is very helpful for a relationship with God.
And what we all loved hearing:
You cannot please God, you cannot displease God.
You cannot lose or earn God's favor. You can only lose contact with your awareness of God.
(Then why be good?)
We do good to the degree we recognize we are good.
We are most fragile in our Identity.
Any way you associate with Jesus (which is what The Exercises entails) will call you into tension with the world. Association with Jesus is a call to suffering. Association with Jesus makes us vulnerable to insult, injury, interruptions, and conflict with the spirit of the culture.
And on discerning the difference between my voice and God's: "What do I sound like when I'm selfish?" When it is God's voice, it will call me to mystery and adventure. Discernment never ends in clarity. Discernment only gives clarity as to where to start walking in faith.
* * * * * * * *
And this has been on my mind, too, in this highly charged election season (yet a year away). I think about political issues a lot, but say and write very little. There are several reasons for this. First of all, I feel it's often too divisive and negative and loud. As in shouting loud, with very little true dialogue.
Also, I have changed my own mind many times on various issues because I have a tendency to see and appreciate more than one side (there are always at least two) of an argument. There's always more to the story, and often it's not about what we think it's about. And the real reason: Politics will not change the world. Spiritual direction will change the world. Because what will change the world is each of us sorting out our own stuff and finding our truth, then moving to action and living our truth from the heart.
And this arrived in my box this morning:
The Momentous Step The moment in which we become aware of the creative action of God and are therefore able to respond or resist, is the moment in which our conscious spiritual life begins. In all the talk of human progress, it is strange how very seldom we hear anything about this, the most momentous step forward that a human being can make, for it is the step that takes us beyond self-interest, beyond succession, sets up a direct intercourse with the soul’s Home…. Large parts of the New Testament are concerned with the making of that step. But the experimental knowledge of it is not on the one hand possessed by all Christians, nor on the other hand is it confined to Christianity.
Walking late this afternoon, I decided to reverse my usual route, which tweaked things quite a lot. I think I may have even seen some things I wouldn't have, otherwise--the pair of hawks that flew across the path in front of me, the leaves I feel compelled to collect, the clouds breaking up overhead after a rainy day, and the zinnias that are still blooming in someone's yard. I imagine the zinnias have been there for weeks, if not months, and I've never notice them till today.
Yesterday, Kay and I had lunch at Gateway and crossed the street for a long-ago-promised walk together through Woodland Cemetery, and came upon this Celtic Cross. The cross, the falling leaves, the briskness of the day, all reminded me of Cynthia Bourgeault's Fall Triduum encompassing Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. You can read about it here: http://www.contemplative.org/fall-triduum/
Bourgeault says that both spring and fall Triduums deal with that passage from death to life which is at the heart of the Christian mystical path, and in fact, all mystical paths. But they do so in very different modes, with a very different emotional and spiritual coloration. At Easter the days are lengthening, the earth is springing forth with new life, and resurrection energy is already coursing trough everything in the physical universe.
In the Fall Triduum the movement is more inward, against the grain. The days are shortening, the leaves are fallen, and the earth draws once again into itself. Everything in the natural world confronts us with reminders of our own mortality.
In other words, A Reversal.
I've been giving a lot of thought to Advent lately, partly as preparation for my own inward journeying, and partly for the purpose of preparing a retreat for some people in our church. So I keep bringing it up with friends, one of whom has declared Advent her favorite season. Another said he thinks we should observe Advent by taking away one thing every day. I liked Ted's idea, and we talked about ways we might put that into practice. There are plenty of things in our lives that we could easily live without.
The weather has stayed so mild, this morning may even have been our first real frost, not a killing one, and they say it will be back up in the 70's in the next few days. Whether due to El Nino, or God, or Climate Change, I do not know, but I'm experiencing this as Gift, and am grateful to have morning glories, nasturtiums, the red geranium, and my cosmos still blooming:
Here are some things that are on my mind, one of which I mentioned in the last post: some of my skewed impressions of women in power/politics. Not to give anything away or name names, I think I'll just list some of the thoughts that go through my head when I hear some of the women who are out there in the public arena: "flake" "ridiculous" "liar" "evil" "severe" "harsh" "deceptive" "power hungry"--well, you get the idea.
And I'm attempting to reverse my reactions to my sisters by creating this list, and also journaling as I did just this morning: You know none of these women personally, have never gone for a walk with them, had a private conversation, let yourself be openly curious or compassionate or listened honestly. You have only glimpses to go on, and sound bytes of some of their very worst moments. And I realize that if a woman (or any person) does very much public speaking at all there are inevitably going to be blunders, misspeaks, gaffes, and faux pas, even without the misrepresentation provided by the media.
I'm Just Sayin'.
A group of us spent most of the day today in retreat with Fr. Larry Gillick, a Jesuit and spiritual director in the Ignatian Exercises. You can learn more about Fr. Gillick here:
http://www.stbenedictcenter.com/ And I'm serious when I say this. If you are planning a retreat in the next year, consider going to the Benedictine Center (Scuyler, Nebraska, near Omaha) for the retreat Fr. Gillick offers in July 2016.
I plan to share some insights from today's time with him in my next post.
And this little gem just arrived in my phone earlier:
(Now awaiting Grady's.)
These are lovely days, and it seems we've gotten into the rhythm of this time of year. Faith Formation classes have resumed,our Wednesday Bowls meditation is back in place, weekends punctuate the weekly routine with activity, people, and travel. We're getting it all in, it seems, before the holidays and winter arrive.
Jack and I made our annual Autumn trek in mid-October to the northeastern part of the state, swinging up into the corners of Minnesota and Wisconsin. There was more color in the coulee region across the River than on the Iowa side, but the temperatures were nice, and the days were sunny. We ate fresh cheese curds and checked out trout streams and stopped in pristine small towns to explore and eat yummy meals.
On our return trip we visited Cedar Rock, the home built by Frank LLoyd Wright for Lowell and Agnes Walter overlooking the Wapsipinicon River at Quasqueton. We found the views and the tour of the property worth the stop.
Our tour guide was a pro--extremely knowledgeable, and a good story teller, including intricate details of the house along with his favorite anecdotes regarding F.L.W. and his eccentric (and egocentric) personality.
Life has been unseasonably eventful the past few weeks, beginning with my birthday weekend back in September. Friends loaned us their condo at Clear Lake for Labor Day Weekend. Soon as we got home, we received news of our dear Uncle Ronald's death, so we made plans to travel to western Kansas to be with the family.
That was a very special time for us, as Ronald was such as dear friend as well as uncle. It was good to have the opportunity to celebrate his life with people who knew him well, and in the place he loved most, what he considered home after living in Minneola, Kansas, for nearly ninety years. And, true to form, he was engaged and considerate of his family all the way to the end. Or, in actuality, The Beginning. We are so grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and loving him!
We also got to spend time with our Wichita buddies, Evelyn and Chris, and visit our parish there, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Stepping back into that familiar place reminded us of what we've been missing. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (or, fondly, St. Betsy's) is a very special parish!
The next weekend we were off to Madison so I could attend a SoulCollage® Facilitator's training. The training was led by Audrey Chowdhury, a woman I had gotten to know in a writer's workshop in Cloquet. We counted up, and eleven years have passed since that meeting. SoulCollage® is an intuitive process using images and imagination that is also fun and interactive. I'm already planning some workshops and retreats using SoulCollage® and hope to incorporate it into Spiritual Direction. It's a lovely, lovely process and a great tool!
The following weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Toledo (Iowa) and present a workshop on Spiritual Gifts for a group of Third Order Franciscans. What a warm, welcoming group they were, and the gathering took place at Otter Creek County Park, which offered a beautiful wooded setting with a small lake. They kept pointing out to me that, "This is a very Franciscan place." I had to agree. I even threw in a few quotes and examples from Francis's life to let them know I'm on track!
And, just this past weekend, I got to repeat this for a slew of Youth Ministry leaders here in Des Moines. I'm having so much fun with this!
Outdoors, the weather has been mild; no frost, yet, and my flowers are happier than they've been in months. I know Jack is wanting to get everything finished up and put away for winter, but his back is interfering with things right now. But this morning he went upstairs to his spot and successfully tied a fly he was wanting to learn, then announced, "I've accomplished all I need for today." Who doesn't love the way that feels!!
The Family is doing well, so far as I can tell from this far away. Jack's niece just gave birth to Alexander Jacob last week, and we recently learned that Grady Berman is going to get a new sibling in May 2016. I got to FaceTime with Lilia a couple weeks ago, and am making some plans to get my hands on her soon, probably over Thanksgiving Weekend. Daniel's band, The Dawn, appears to be thriving, and he's liking his job. CalArts is treating Jason well, I think (he celebrates his 35th birthday next week), and Sarah and Carl are doing well--planning on an Arizona Thanksgiving.
And these are the other things that are On My Mind:
My health is good, but it keeps reminding me that I am indeed aging.
I'm feeling a need to examine my attitude toward women in power/politics along with my views of the role of women in the church. It's tricky. I can be so critical (inwardly more than outwardly) of other women in leadership, which causes me to wonder how much I'm projecting onto people I don't even know. At the same time, I know it's important to not back down. It's our world, too. It's our church, too.
Having grown children has been a challenging as well as exhilarating stage. The challenge is in feeling the tug toward wanting to be more involved in their lives and realizing over and over again that if I choose to do that I lose the present moment of my own life, which is vital, necessary and precious. So, this is about balance, I guess.
The final thing is that I'm finding great joy in the daily, getting to use my gifts and pursue my interests, and follow the deeper desires of my heart, which, again, are always linked to the will of God. I'm so happy that I get to do this with Jack and with others I love!
Oh, and the writing. The sessions with Carol, my writing partner, are so meaningful and worthwhile. Sheer gift that I get to do this, as well.
Some of my friends have asked about the blog lately. (Thanks for letting me know you miss me!) I've spent much of the summer focusing on my novel, so that's where my writing time has gone. And summer is not over, correct? Although, with returning to my regular job last week, and with the start of school looming, it's hard to remember that.
Things are off to a good start, and we have almost everyone we need in place in order to get started in September. Things have shifted quite a lot, with people "aging out" and moving up as their kids have gotten older. But we're adjusting, and finding new people to move into the program here and bring new interest, gifts, and ideas.
Our numbers are down, and we don't know quite what to make of it.
And it was good this week to meet up with my peer group in Glenwood. Being with them always generates a lot of excitement--creativity, ideas, differing approaches, connection--and the feeling that, yes, we can do this!
As for the novel, I mentioned in May that I have a new writing partner. You will want to look at Carol's website and her books here: Carol Bodensteiner. Carol has published a novel and a memoir, and of course I consider her a pro!
We have agreed that ours is a good working arrangement, in part because our brains work so differently, and we follow different processes. Having a partner has helped me to make progress on the novel, both in terms of getting out what I want to say (keep going, keep going, keep going) and in fine tuning my skills. The bonus is in having an opportunity to get to know Carol!! (who will be an official peanut brittle taster at the Iowa State Fair this year, I might add)
During my time off, I laid low and hid out. Read a lot (mostly novels) and took a couple of short, not-too-far-away trips, one to Elgin to see my daughter, and one to the North Shore with Jack in mid-July. Glorious. Perfect weather allowed for lots of hiking and being on the water, exploring Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail, and revisiting our home near Duluth. Lilia accompanied me on the trip to Elgin:
As I think ahead to the "new year" (which really is a new year for me, since this is my birthday season) I'm thinking a lot about Pope Francis and what he is communicating through his life, and also his view of the church and what we are supposed to be. The framework for catechesis this year is Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person, followed with a Jubilee Year of Mercy. I hope to convey the message of Mercy through everything we do in our Faith Formation program. How do we show Mercy to each other? To the kids who come through the door, and to their families? To our community and the rest of the world? To ourselves?
I used to use the term "compassion" a lot, but have decided that compassion is actually "mercy lite." Of course, a big part of the question is--what IS Mercy in the first place?
Jesus's words come to mind: "Be merciful, as your Father in Heaven is merciful." In other words, God IS Mercy. Mercy that is intended to be both offered and received.
At our peer group meeting on Tuesday (CLADD) we heard Ellen Miller talk about Mary's Meals, which is a global initiative for feeding hungry children around the world:
As we shared our response around the table, Dorothy talked about the refugee children in the religious education program she directs at the Cathedral. The children live all over the city of Des Moines, and when they come for religious education on Thursday afternoons, many have ridden a bus for an hour, and have not had anything to eat since lunch. More than likely, they will not have an evening meal at home, either. Some of us asked if we can have our students prepare lunch boxes for them on a Thursday and Dorothy jumped at the opportunity. But what about all the other days of the week? What about weekends with little or no food in the house?
On Wednesday, a dear friend had a biopsy, and is awaiting the results. I've been trying to offer some support from a distance, and in one of my text messages sent a photo and this: God's mercies are new every morning. To which she responded, "Thanks for this reminder. I have pleaded for God's mercy here."
And, then the story a woman from our Bible study shared this week. Last fall, Jean asked us to pray for Vinnie, her daughter's best friend, a young mother of three, who had a tumor on her spine. Three doctors in Des Moines and four doctors at Mayo told Vinnie they were certain it was a malignant tumor. (Jean brought this concern to our Bible study group, which we think, has a charism of Intercessory Prayer. I don't know how this "works" exactly. But we pray. And things happen, usually good things.)
Vinnie's tumor was benign.
But they couldn't get all of it, so they sent her home and scheduled surgery again for summer. She would be at Mayo for three months in radiation treatment. In surgery, however, "for some reason" the tumor fell off. Fell Off in the hands of the surgeon, leaving nothing to radiate, so Vinnie came home.
When and where and how does Mercy show up in our lives? Mercy shows up as a sack lunch. Something concrete, that can bring a sense of satisfaction and nourishment and being cared for. Mercy shows up as a tumor that seems to take care of itself, setting us free to go on and live our life. Mercy shows up any place where words are not enough.
I need to say, this, however. Mercy shows up, too, when the refrigerator is empty and when the tumor is malignant. Mercy shows up, too, when the house burns down and the job doesn't come through. What I'm saying is, Mercy is also mysterious. It's that underlying thing that lends substance and support to our experience, even in the midst of pain, suffering, and unanswered questions.
How is Mercy showing up in your life, and how are you able to receive it? How do you extend Mercy to others? Where does it seem Mercy is most needed?
This may be random. It's a breezy, sun-saturated afternoon, and I've been out in the yard with my eye on the little bunny-buddy who lives under our deck with his momma. I've tried to strike a deal with him--eat all the grass you want, but leave my flowers alone. That means the rose bush and the phlox, the cleome and the nasturtiums. I had my chance when I found your nest. I couldn't bring myself to drown you.
He nibbles away, as nonchalantly as one so wary is able to be.
He's quite compact, about six inches long, maybe, with cute ears. He seems so happy in his world, being. Being small. Stopping at what ever blade attracts him. He startles to sound and movement, scampers off toward the front flower bed.
I follow and watch, even see him doze off momentarily. Evidently he's eaten something "soporific" as Beatrix Potter would say.
Soon I'm lying in the grass, watching the clouds, the birds, the sky , the trees. You do not have to be a child to try this. I'm the subject of one of Mary Engelbreit's drawings, a child lying in the grass at the start of summer, in my front yard, right out there for the world to witness. I have no shame.
I notice my shoulder is tense, try to relax it, to relax my entire body. Then I remember.
I'm reading an online retreat with Cynthia Bourgault on Gierjoff's Fourth Way. I understand very little of the point of the whole thing, but I think if I engage in some of the practices, I will somehow begin to grow in it. It all has to do with the practice of sensing and attention.
The bunny stretches out in the grass at the shaded edge of things and sleeps amid all that softness and those good smells.
This has been a full week, a good one, really. Every morning I write, "What a good day, yesterday. . ." and try to think about the best thing(s) that happened. Some alone time, some people time, a good mix: meeting Catherine on a whim to talk for an hour one morning before work; Linda and coffee and conversation at Grounds for Celebration on Friday; Cathy for a bowl of soup one rainy afternoon after work. She drank something hot made with vanilla and milk? and no coffee.
We talked about her question, "What makes you YOU?", raised because her husband told her about someone who is going to receive a head transplant. (yes, HEAD.) Later that evening, Jack and I watched a terrific documentary called "Alive Inside" about the way nursing home patients with Alzheimer's and dementia respond to music therapy. That held so many parallels to the conversation with Cathy. It was so good we watched it twice! I really love the way it went beyond the usual "our culture needs elders" to the idea that we are missing the physical touch of the elderly.
Cathy and I also talked about Etty HIllesum (An Interrupted Life), a young Jewish woman who lived through the German occupation in Holland during the Holocaust, and the manner in which she deepened spiritually over such a brief time. At the beginning of her journals she is a brainy, sensitive, hedonistic young woman and within a year she is saying things like,
I shall always be able to stand on my own two feet even when they are planted on the hardest soil of the harshest reality. And my acceptance is not indifference or helplessness. I feel deep moral indignation at a regime that treats human beings in such a way. But events have become too overwhelming and too demonic to be stemmed with personal resentment and bitterness. These responses strike me as utterly childish and unequal to the fateful course of events. . .I am only bowing to the inevitable. . .And it is sheer arrogance to think oneself too good to share the fate of the masses.
In August 1942, when the first big street roundup took place in Amsterdam, Etty volunteered to go with the trapped Jews to Westerbork. From there, in September 1943, she was placed on a transport and was sent to Auschwitz, where she died in November 1943 at the age of twenty-nine. Out of the window of that train, she threw a postcard which was found and sent by farmers: "We have left the camp singing."
We've always assumed that if this were to happen in our time, we would put a stop to it. That we wouldn't remain blind. That we would not allow whole populations of people to be rounded up and slaughtered under our watch. Yet, as I said to Cathy, it has happened again, and it is happening again, and here we are, standing in Hy-Vee pondering which cheese to buy.
Other things this week: Helen called from the San Francisco airport on her way back to Northern Ireland. Her son just got married in California. 'And," she reported, "The bridegroom's mother didn't fall down."
She plans to return in December. She has switched from reading novels to memoir, and is slowly reading the book of Isaiah with a friend. "So much of God's wrath in those early chapters," she told me.
Later, I emailed her this question: "Do you think it's God being wrathful or men portraying God as wrathful to keep people in line?"
In other news. . .I read this week that the Southern Baptist Convention has recently changed its policy on the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. (And, it appears, just in time for the Feast of Pentecost.) Which leaves me wondering. . .if we're uncomfortable with something the Spirit does, we just issue a policy against it. Evidently. Except, now, for some reason, a lot of people in the denomination are receiving this gift from the Spirit. It's slightly more palatable, it appears, since it's happening more in other cultures.
In other, other news. . .I may have a new writing partner. Her name is Carol and we meet tomorrow to determine whether we're a good fit. I don't know what to expect. And I'm noticing again that first drafts are always messy and ugly--not just the writing but the content. It seems to be a necessary step, though, in reaching the core of what needs to be said. Speaking of cores. . .I decided recently that in order to get to the core of one of the main characters in the novel I need to go back and explore my experiences and relationships with the boys and men in my life. I am not speaking of any vast experience here, only that there's something really essential in it for me. That in order to understand this character and make the reader care about him, I need to understand more about myself. A daunting task, to say the least. I couldn't believe how much, initially, just listing boys from grade school stirred up such intense feelings of shame and vulnerability. Gulp. And exposure. Starting with my brother.
Which brings me to the subject of my brother, Mike, whose 70th Birthday was a couple of weeks ago. We haven't spoken in two years, but I decided to give him a call. Here is how it went: I placed the call. The phone rang. Someone picked it up and hung up. I placed the call again. Someone picked it up and hung up. I placed the call again. Someone picked it up and hung up. I placed the call again. This time it went to voicemail and I left a message.
So, I thought. Maybe this is the final disconnect between the two of us. Within the past few months I've thought a couple of things in regard to Mike. From him I could have learned from early childhood not to take things personally. As cruel and derisive as he was toward me, always, for him it was never anything personal. I've been slow catching on. Also, from Mike I learned what it's like to be an only child.
I'm not bitter, and I'm not even sad. I came to terms with it a while back--the fact that I would probably never have a real relationship with him. I was just trying to be nice.
And this. The inimitable Phyllis Tickle, a wonderful woman and spiritual writer, just learned she is dying of Stage IV lung cancer. From Phyllis I have learned more about writing, about thinking, about what it means to live a life of faith. Pick up something of hers and read it. She says that in the time remaining she wants to write another book.
Last thing: Jason is here this week, making his way from California to Chicago and Michigan. He and Jack are playing golf.
I used to be Queen of the neighborhood. The Jacks Queen, that is. No one spent more time playing jacks than I did. No one had more skill, and no one could beat me. (So much for fame.) That was a mere fifty-plus years ago.
So, last weekend when my sister-in-law asked to visit Hobby Lobby, and I saw a box of Jacks, I bought them, of course. (H.L. carries an interesting selection of "vintage" games.) I was thinking of my granddaughter, Lilia, at the time, and wondering whether she plays jacks. I really don't know. Do kids still jump rope? Play hopscotch?
I planned to save them for her, but this morning I opened the box and gave it a try.
I suppose it's sort of like riding a bicycle. After years of not riding, it feels a little wobbly at first. Things don't feel as stable, as precise. That was my experience this morning, sitting on the kitchen floor, trying to reestablish that rhythm, that natural sweep, that steady bounce of the ball. My hands have grown larger, and seem to be in the way. I picked up the jacks one at a time, then in twos, then scooped up more. Other games started falling into my brain, something about chickens in a coop and cows jumping over a fence, and another one where you transfer the jack to the other hand before catching the ball. One about stars in orbit, too. It was fun, even though right now I feel like I'm Queen of Absolutely Nothing.,
Lots of things are flooding into and through me this week as I've spent a lot of time in solitude. Jack has been off fishing, and I thought I would focus and write in the time alone, but it isn't going the way I planned. It's rained a lot, and I've been doing a lot of what I would call "wallowing." This, with working two evenings in addition to my daytime schedule, means I couldn't have spent nearly as much time at it as it seems.
First of all, there was the matter of eating, which, who does that well when they're all alone? I remember one night having cheese and a glass of wine for dinner, followed with a batch of brownies. (Not the entire batch, thankfully.) I suppose when Jack reads this, he'll go on a search for those. One night I attempted to order a pizza, and figured out, as I listened while the young man went back and forth between prices for medium and small (which cost more than two mediums) and ended up searching for a coupon for me, that I wasn't even hungry, and ended up cancelling the order.
That's just a little weird.
Last night, I ended up doing some laundry, reading, and looking at Facebook. Somehow, on Facebook I stumbled onto the "Thank You John Heath" page.
John Heath was a campus minister, and my friend and mentor in college. (College the first time. . .in 1968.) John died recently, at the age of eighty. In April, an acquaintance from college contacted a mutual friend who lives in Houston to ask her to let me know of John's passing. When I read his obituary, I couldn't believe it. . .Eighty? How could John be Eighty? (Well, because I'm sixty-four, that's how!)
I haven't seen John in more than forty years, and though I've thought of him over the years, I haven't missed him this way, or let myself sit with the many good memories I have of our friendship. As I read through the tributes, remembrances, and stories others have shared over the past month since John's death, I realized that each of us have had the same experience of John. Everyone speaks of his warmth, his steady friendship, his humor, the way he drew us in and included us. John didn't make time for us, so much as John had time for us. I know I spent hours and hours with him, and so many other former students say the same thing. For more than thirty-nine years John was a fixture on a small college campus in Oklahoma, just making himself available to students, listening, welcoming, taking us seriously, and helping us to grow and to grow up. And have I mentioned it? John had a great sense of humor. The love of Christ permeated John's character and personality, and every one of us knows we've never met anyone else like him.
It's odd the way a fresh grief can put us in touch with our other griefs. Odd, too, the way news of John's death puts me in touch with the passage of time, the losses and gains, the people who have passed through my life, conjuring up memories that have lain dormant for half a lifetime. Really odd to see a long list on a page entitled Thank You John Heath of names of people from my youth, who have followed their own far flung paths, but are somehow still connected in this web of friendship through John.
These are the kinds of things that come up when I speak of Living in Layers. By this stage of life, the long accumulation of experiences, loves, places and graces, those things with which I'm certain John was well acquainted, interconnect and somehow sustain us.
And isn't life just such a miracle--this beautiful meshing of memories, of a very special man, and a precious friendship that's never ended at all, really. Memory can be such a great gift to us, and is. And as I continue to think about that long list of people, old friends who touched my life at that critical stage of exploration called college, the memories of those people and my time with them begin to come back to me and touch me all over again.
And maybe that's what this stage of life is for--the recovery, in a sense, of people and experiences, and even some skills, like playing jacks, that had a significant place in our lives at one time, and had such great meaning for us.