We went to mass at a place rather distant from my home parish this weekend. Distant as in miles, distant as in Presence. A nice blessing of the palms in the square in front of the church. A procession. A well rehearsed chorale accompanied by a pipe organ in mass. A leader of song up front. The Passion read clearly. Very brief homily. Lots of incense. A beautifully decorated and appointed church. 250 miles from home. The motions were very well carried out. It felt empty to me.
God is good. I am not asked to attend this church, or one like on a regular basis. I am invited to walk with Him in everyday events, or in a small (ok, tiny) parish without regular musicians. I am aware of God’s presence in so many ways. This distance of a cathedral with smells and bells is not insisted upon.
With my broken ankle/leg, I’ve had an excess of time and space to obsess. That also means I’ve have time to reflect and focus on the graceful side of my life. It all began when I fell…
January 9, near Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii: When I tripped, slipped, missed my step, whatever happened and I felt myself crashing to the somewhat muddy ground, I distinctly remember my camera (a nice Canon 6D) swinging through the air, and I thought “Crap! I’m going to break my camera!”– when I landed I was pretty sure it was the left leg that had the break, but I wanted someone to check on the camera!
For once in my life, I didn’t say any really bad words as I lay on the ground, pretty much screaming/crying. Gratitude for discovering that what came out of my mouth was more of a prayer and a plea to make it stop hurting rather than cursing the situation. That peaceful spirit I prayed for some many years ago seems to be trying to manifest itself. And, gratitude that I was using my pancake lens and the camera and lens were unharmed in the incident. And, it’s stretching it a bit, but gratitude that when they inspected the scrape/gash across my leg just above the ankle, there was no bone showing. All bones, while broken, stayed in place and I’ve not had to have any surgery.
It’s good to reflect on these things to combat the frustration of being mobility challenged, unable to walk or run, stuck at home unless I have a driver or assistance to get me and my scooter loaded into the car and assistance at my destination to get unloaded. Just getting a shower is a major production number! (I can’t put the cast cover on or off by myself; we’ve installed a temporary grab bar in the shower, especially since you have to step up to get in and our; I have a nice plastic chair in the shower now; I’m terrified of falling.)
I find that I must focus on the gratitude side of the equation and not let the fear and anger side take control. It could be worse, it could be better, but I find that I am learning to rest in where I am. No doubt I’ll come through this with a much more concrete connection with the needs of those in wheelchairs, or on crutches or like me, using a knee scooter. I’m extremely aware of the availability, or lack thereof, of curb cuts and ramps… and of ramps that are too steep. Teaches me compassion.
And still — I am impatient. I want to have mended bones and be back to walking, and even running (I hope!). Learning patience and gratitude are the kind of traits that require lots of practice to master. Aaaarrrgghh!
Over the past 15-18 months, I have struggled in with my feelings and relationship with another person. He is far away now, but in a place where I will surely encounter him again in the next few weeks. He is someone that I care for, care about and really like. If you asked him about that in the past year or so, he would probably inform you in no uncertain terms that I bore false witness against him and that I was the cause of much unwanted change in his life. I’m pretty sure he has himself convinced that I was out to get him, and successful at doing so. I’ve lived with and walked through the anger he left behind and as we enter Holy Week, I can say “Thank you.”
I’ve been through my own defensiveness, my own battle where I have wanted to scream [at him] — “Look, Jerk, I wasn’t trying to hurt you, but I saw someone who needed some help.” or “I’m really angry that you think I was out to hurt you.” I’ve gritted my teeth, and hurt, as I became an invisible person in his presence. I’ve sat with the anger when I heard from others that he had told them that I was the reason he was moved away. I have taken comfort in another friend suggesting that I pray the Psalms, because they contain all of the emotions I have passed through.
Sunday, I listened to the Passion as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. It sank in that through the troubles of the past year I have also looked at myself. I have opened a small opening to let the Light of God’s love shine in and illuminate my actions, my thoughts, my feelings. I have asked forgiveness for the contempt I have felt. I have attempted to step outside the situation and see the whole thing. I have examined my motivations for what I actually did do and tried to be honest about the parts that were on the track of being loving and caring as well as the parts that were driven by hurt and anger. I have come to appreciate at a deeper level that “Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing” (Thanks to my favorite TV Shrink, Dr. Danny of “Necessary Roughness”). I have finally accepted that sometimes you must say what you believe, even though it will likely put you into very uncomfortable places. I am at peace with knowing that I wasn’t perfect, but I did try to do what I thought the Spirit was calling me to do.
In so many ways, this whole mess has helped me to accept that I am loved: even when I push back at God’s love and try to distance myself simply because God can see me so clearly — which can be very uncomfortable.
And so, I say “Thank you” to my friend (and I truly still consider him a friend, no matter what he thinks) for helping me to grow closer to God. I pray that he too will find it in his heart to let the walls come down and let go of his own hurt and anger — because that makes this life so much more joyful to live.
November 1 — All Saints is a call not only to remember those shining examples of living in God love, but also a time to reflect on those lights that we have seen shine, up close and personal. It is good to remember and reflect on the giants: Vincent de Paul, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Sienna, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton. But, there are others who have lived the example much closer to my own life.
My stepfather, Stewart, was such a light. Not perfect — but a man who tried to walk the walk that God called him to. A man who brought much healing to my own image of Father. A man who loved my mother, and embraced all of us (his 3 and her 3 children, plus grandchildren) as family. Today, I stop to remember him, and thank God for him.
My grandfather, Jack who was always there. There’s not much to say in concrete terms from my perspective — I mean, beyond my memories of him showing up on Saturday mornings with Wrigley’s Spearmint gum in his pocket, to take us home with him for the night. Or, my memories of how he loved his great grandchildren. There was a special affinity between him and my youngest son. I wish he had lived to see Daniel grow up.
My grandmothers. One, who taught me how to make a two crust, pokeberry filled mud pie, and how to knit and crochet, and had me help her send checks to the Democratic National Committee (with a promise not to tell my mother what we were up to.) The other, who made wonderful cinnamon rolls, and my first semi-formal dress ( a bright, gorgeous turquoise velvet — or was it the red and white one that I wore to my first dance?). She seemed able to do anything with nothing.
I could go on and on. These people and others taught me how to live and how to love. They are no longer here in body, but in some way, they live on in me. I pray I do them right as I journey.
Several years ago I worked my way through Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It involved an exercise of taking the time daily to write down five things that you are grateful for. At times I struggled (life seemed a bit dark at the time); I recorded things like “my family” or “having a job” or “having a home.” As, I said, this was during a dark time in my life and as I wrote things down, I think I wrote things that I thought I should be grateful for. It was a good reminder each day and it certainly was a help to try to look at the good things.
This past weekend one of my godsons got married. We flew out to Texas to help celebrate the occasion. My oldest son was the best man. This was really a family celebration — a small wedding, but a weekend filled with friends that are more like family than friends. I listened to my son give the toast at the reception. The sense of BROTHERS came through so strongly. This despite the fact that these boys have not lived in the same town since they were 5 years old and have taken very different paths in life. But, they regard each other as brothers at a very deep level.
I had the chance to spent time not only with my son, but my daughter in law as well. When I teasingly made some comment about her not really knowing about the often odd family that she married in to, she responded – “Yes, but I’m glad I did.”
The groom hugged me repeatedly – and the bride, whom I had never met in person was open and welcoming. It seemed that the fact that we were special to her new husband meant that we would be special to her.
So many joys —
So, today, when I think of what I am grateful for, it comes from the heart. I am grateful for these blessings: my children, answered prayers, my friends who always seem to be there when needed… The joy of grandchildren. These aren’t listed because I think I should be grateful. These are the elements of my life that remind me how blessed I am. I sit in awe. I let go of the disappointments and the things I can’t control.