Sunday, May 27, 2012

grace in all things

The surf was up and rolling as we watched the remarkable focus of the border collie on his Frisbee.The Frisbee sailed from his owner's hand and the dog leaped joyfully to corner it.A lazy week at a Florida beach .As we drifted back to the condo, we could see a paper stuck in the door;"Call home,now.Family Emergency."

Many calls later ,we packed,headed home and, eventually lived out the saddest of weeks.My husband's brother had unexpectedly left us and ,as much of the clan that could ,gathered in Pennsylvania to honor his rich life and support his devastated family.And in all of this, the Spirit hovered.

My brother-in-law had collapsed at home and had bled on the bedroom carpet leaving deep red stains that would be impossible for his wife to face.A friend called a service and before Toni got home from the hospital ,the rug was cleaned and spotless.

Family members from as far away as New Mexico,Texas and the East, flew and drove to hold Toni and Beth,his daughter, in their arms and witness to Bob's life,so well lived.Nephews carried the gifts up at Mass,acted as pall bearers and a niece stood by Beth's side for days,holding,whispering,helping.

At the Mass, Toni so wanted the incredibly moving song,"To Where You are" sung but knew no one that could sing it.Another friend found that someone and the song soared to the heavens where Bob and his son
are in peace.The beauty of it comforted us in our pews.

Later in the day, a neighbor came to offer his three sons as gardeners to take care of the yard that Bob so loved.And a young woman Beth had met at the park the day before the funeral made sure that a beautiful memory wind chime was sent to the funeral home.

Christ promised never to leave us.Each of you were His Hands.

Monday, May 7, 2012

the stoop sitters

After the neighborhood's families had finished dinner and the dishes had been washed, dried and put away, she would come out. Usually she wore a pale house dress and sandals with her dark hair in a loose bun on the top of her head. She would sit for a few minutes and when I saw her, my heart would jump a bit and then I would fly across the street to sit next to her.

I considered Gladys to be my friend, although what she thought, I don't know.This is true: I loved her, her quiet ways and the way she would laugh at my jokes.We would chat for awhile and then she would go in but for that space of time, I felt lifted.Being a lonely teen, misunderstood at home, her stoop became my haven.I know I thought that perhaps I should leave her alone so her husband could sit out there next to her, but I didn't care, I wanted that time with her.

Gladys was a teacher at Cedar Street Elementary and I remember thinking how lucky her little charges must have been to have her beautiful face instead of the stern ,disapproving ones of the nuns that I saw each day. Her skin was smooth , soft, and her green eyes held a certain mirth that matched her smile. Her sons were my friends but none of us had yet learned the kindness that came so naturally to her. In that tree shaded Long Island neighborhood which held all of us kids for our whole lives, she alone never yelled at any of us.

I wish now that I knew more about her.Several years ago, I found out that she was living in Augusta, not far from here. I called her and we had a long and lively chat just like old times. I thanked her for being my friend and she graciously accepted. She lived a long life and is gone now but I think she would be pleased to know that I think of her with such fondness and that her son and I are still friends.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

the motley singers

I didn't come to faith in a vacuum.You were there,dead poet,hippie singer,saddened widower and your writing,singing,your hand brought me back.This is a love note to you.

The church that I left in the late 60s, I have described before.Liberated in Queens,New York,I left the dogma and the belief in prayer by the wayside on the bridge that goes over the Belt Parkway.With a knowing smile,I went back to our apartment near Kennedy Airport ,kicked off my shoes and happily
wondered what I would do next Sunday between 9 and 10 while the naive priest across the bridge prayed for the North Vietnamese.I quietly settled into the life of a non-believer.

But You,my Lord, had other plans.

In 1969,we,my husband and year old daughter,with green VW bug packed tight,left for the West and Denver to start our new life.I cried until Ohio,never having lived away from home before.Once we settled into our apartment in Montbello I decided to go to church just so my daughter would have some one other than me to play with for a hour.She went to the nursery and I went to Mass and there you were.

A more motley group of young people could hardly be imagined.Singers,maybe five of you ,up front to the side of the altar,serious,long haired,you strummed and sang an Our Father that I have never heard since ,with such feeling,such love that tears came to me,this non-church goer. Every Sunday you were there expecting no applause(in a Catholic Church)just singing your inspired songs and God smiled at me through you.You never knew.

One day,all those who helped me on my journey back to God will be waiting in glory and  I will hug you all and never let go.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

an unusual bookmark

This morning was lovely in Georgia, a cool breeze came through the porch as I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours.On page 991, at the top, is a small black ant.He must have been praying with me one morning and hastily I may have closed my book ,and there he remains.I have seen him several times before and just can't seem to flick his dried little body off the page.

This page ,this reading, is just so profound for me that maybe that's why he wound up there.The reading is from Ezekiel and it jumped out at me today and said,"Tell the story".So I will.

It was in the late 70s that my friend Eva and I ,seekers together ,attended a six week workshop that focused on the burgeoning, new Charismatic Movement in the church.Sitting together on folded chairs, we looked around.There were thirty or more people of all ages sitting in a hushed circle of sorts.Candles gently lit the room and we began with some easy praise hymns.

Eva and I were approaching this gathering with not a little scepticism.We were curious but did quite a bit of chortling together at the thought of "tongues",interpretation of tongues and the other purported gifts of the Holy Spirit working in the group and then this:a voice in my mind said these words as clearly as I write them.It has been over thirty years and they remain."Sharon,open yourself and listen".I turned from my friend and listened as  a young man stood and spoke in an unknown language.He sat down and these words flooded my mind."You are my people,I am your God .I want unity among you."Then,I was stunned as these words were repeated when another man stood and said them, the same words,out loud.Tears flowed down my cheeks and didn't stop for a long time.Gift,indeed.

I will never get over that night and what it told me of who God is and how much He wants to talk to us.This is the promise of that night and that Canticle of Ezekiel :

"...I  will give you a new heart
and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.

I will put my spirit within you
and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.

You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people ,
and I will be your God."