“In this life, we can not all do great things.
We can only do small things with great love.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa
I received a “Final Receipt and Release” Form from the attorney handling my father’s estate.
Probate. Sale and closure of the house. Dissolution of the Estate.
Finished. Essentially, no more Dad. Or Mom, for that matter.
Instead of relief, there is sadness, an emptiness, a longing.
Another “on this date in history” event at the same time – one year ago yesterday, I had the TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) that changed my career’s course. Following a mini-stroke, 5% of the people have a full stroke event within 2 days, 10% within 7 days, 15% within 90 days, and up to 21% within the first year (Cleveland Clinic).
I’ve been lucky – no residual damage, no further stroke event. Or should I say blessed?
Another part of the package – today, I turn 60 years old. It’s official – I have now lived longer than Mom, who died at 59 (Remembrance). And I have an even better understanding of just how young Mom was when she died, and how much more living she had to do. How much more advice she could have given. How much more influence she could have had on those around her, and on the the world. How much more wisdom she could have imparted to her 2 daughters, her 3 grandsons, and her (now) 5 great-grandchildren.
So Mom and Dad are gone, with the “Final Receipt and Release” of their Estate. I sign the form, affix the stamp, seal the envelope, and return it to the attorney to be officially recorded. How impersonal is that? (Who Will Remember?)
Is this an ending or a beginning?
Is the light beckoning at the end of the dark tunnel a Near Death Experience or a birth?
Do these tears signify a departure or an arrival?
All I really know is that, along with gratitude for their lives, it hurts to have them gone.
I love you, Mom and Dad. I love you.
And like I said – this getting older and losing you both hurts.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Love – Gratitude
The agony is so great…
and yet I will stand it.
Had I not loved so very much
I would not hurt so much.
But goodness knows I would not
want to diminish that precious love
by one fraction of an ounce.
I will hurt,
and I will be grateful to the hurt
for it bares witness to
the depth of our meanings,
and for that I will be
by Shirley Holzer Jeffrey
Death: The Final Stage of Growth
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1975)
In the late 1990s, I traveled to Colorado to take a 5-day intensive course for health professionals in Mind/Body/Spirit Medicine given by Joan Borysenko, a medical scientist and psychologist who brings together science, medicine, psychology and spirituality in the service of healing. Through Joan, I was privileged to meet a friend of hers, a Lakota Sioux medicine man.
Sonny was in his early 50s, but looked much older. His hair was thinned, his face lined, his body disabled by rheumatoid arthritis. He was in constant pain, and needed hip and shoulder surgery, but the government had reached its limit of money allotted to the Indian Reservations (Sonny’s exact description for those who strive to be politically correct) for that year. So, Sonny had to endure the pain until they approved his surgery.
That first night, Sonny agreed to speak with our group of medical professionals. As he spoke of his people’s hardship, his eyes met mine. For an instant, I saw all the suffering that had been his life, and that of his people, the Lakota Nation. Tears streamed down my face. The feeling of communion, of shared suffering, was absolute. Sonny started to cry as well. In that sacred moment, in the eyes of this holy man, I saw the face and heart of Jesus.
I also took part in the Yuwipi, a sacred healing ceremony. At the beginning and end of such sacred rites, at the close of a prayer, or as a prayer itself, the Lakota say, Mitakuye Oyasin, which means “All My Relations.” They believe that a person is related to all Creation, and that we come from One Source. The Lakota honor the community of God’s people with compassion and wisdom.
From a healer who could not heal himself, I learned of universal suffering and compassion, through the eyes of the heart.
Help Sonny to carry his burdens with strength and courage.
Let him live a long and healthy life, free of pain and suffering.
He is a good and decent man, worthy of your mercy.
“The Impossible Dream“
Man of La Mancha
music by Mitch Leigh
lyrics by Joe Darion
To dream … the impossible dream …
To fight … the unbeatable foe …
To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
To run … where the brave dare not go …
To right … the unrightable wrong …
To love … pure and chaste from afar …
To try … when your arms are too weary …
To reach … the unreachable star …
This is my quest, to follow that star …
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
To fight for the right, without question or pause …
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …
And I know if I’ll only be true,
to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest …
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach … the unreachable star …
Dedicated to all those who strive
with their last ounce of courage,
to reach that unreachable star…
Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Play with abandon.
Fail with enthusiasm.
Continue to learn.
Appreciate your friends.
Choose with no regrets.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.
~ Mary Anne Radmacher ~
Whatever Else You Do
by Max Ehrmann
Whatever else you do or forbear,
impose upon yourself the task of happiness;
and now and then abandon yourself
to the joy of laughter.
And however much you condemn
the evil in the world, remember that the
world is not all evil; that somewhere
children are at play, as you yourself in the
old days; that women still find joy
in the stalwart hearts of men;
And that men, treading with restless feet
their many paths, may yet find refuge
from the storms of the world in the cheerful
house of love.
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers,
there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast;
there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old?
Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young,
and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still
and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing,
since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude,
to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren,
to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all,
over and over,
how it is that we live forever.
The Wheel of Life
by Elisabeth Kubler Ross
The mouse enjoys getting in and out of everything, is
lively and mischievous, is always ahead of the others.
(early middle years)
The bear is very comfortable and loves to hibernate. It looks back
at the early years and chuckles at the mouse as it runs around.
(late middle years)
The buffalo loves to roam the prairies. It reviews
life in a comfortable setting and is looking forward
to lifting the heavy load and becoming an eagle.
The eagle loves to soar high above the world, not to look
down on people, but in order to encourage them to look up.
I must have seen the 1993 film, “RUDY,” starring Sean Astin (pre Lord of the Rings) at least 25 times all the while my son was growing up, until October 2011, when I was able to mark something else off my “bucket list.” More on that later…
“RUDY” is based on a true story about Rudy Ruettiger, a young man from a blue-collar family who dreams of playing football for the University of Notre Dame. Rudy refuses to let his small size and less-than-stellar grades discourage him as he perseveres in his studying enough to be accepted into Notre Dame after being enrolled at Holy Cross College. He ends up being a part of the practice football team, showing a committment and drive that ends up gaining the respect of the bigger and more talented first string. In practice, he gets knocked down, dragged, battered and bruised, but he keeps getting up for more. He never gives up. Ultimately, he is allowed to suit up as a member of the team for the last home game of his Senior year, and is on the field for a full 27 seconds of play. From that game in 1975 until last year’s 2012 season, Rudy Ruettiger has been the only player ever carried off the Notre Dame football team by his teammates.
What makes this movie so special to me is, once again, an ordinary person doing extraordinary things, succeeding against all odds. perseverance, loyalty, discipline, courage, moral fiber, character, strength – truly an inspiration to all of us who doubt our abilities and dismiss our dreams as unattainable.
Also, in the movie, the Notre Dame campus, shown through the seasons of Rudy working toward his dream, looked absolutely beautiful – the epitome of what a college campus should look like.
Is it any wonder that when I worked at a small, private college sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross – the same Congregation of Holy Cross that founded Notre Dame – I hoped that there would be some way to finally see an actual football game at Notre Dame and feel something of what Rudy wanted so much to be a part of. As it happens, Alumni who will not be using any of their season tickets sometimes offer these up for sale to the campuses sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross. I put my name in for any home game – preferably with one of the service academies – and as luck would have it, I was able to buy 4 tickets. Notre Dame vs. the Air Force Academy, early October, at Notre Dame. I was thrilled!!!
My husband got time off from his practice as I did from the college, and my son and his fiancé from their jobs in the financial district of Manhattan, and we were off! The 10 hour drive to South Bend, Indiana from our home in NE PA was quite easy – all Interstate 80 until the last few miles off the exit, then to our within-walking-distance-to-the-campus hotel. We were tired but excited, so we got a map of the campus and started to explore.
The Golden Dome, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, ND Stadium, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes – I could go on and on. The trees on campus were shades of gold, orange and crimson, and at night, the windows in the stone buildings called out in welcome. Breathtaking. The campus had me wishing I could do my undergraduate experience over, but this time, here at ND.
Two things that really stood out for us on this visit: the powerful sense of tradition that was everywhere, and even with tens of thousands of people on campus for the Thursday through Saturday festivities of a home football game weekend, everyone – and I mean everyone – was polite. My son, used to riding the PATH and subway every day, said, “I forgot how polite most people are.”
As for the game – the excitement was palpable, the seats small, the band swaggering, the gold helmets dazzling, the cries deafening. I got to be part of my first wave, which went around 4 times! I felt like a little kid on Christmas Day; what a thing to be part of! All of this was being overseen by Touchdown Jesus at the far end of the stadium (actually, the Word of Life Mural on the wall of the Hesburgh Library).
At the end of the game, we witnessed the Air Force Academy Band play their alma mater at one end of the stadium, their team members standing quietly, listening, hands reaching out to the teammate next to them. The ND team ran down to this same spot, removed their helmets, and stood quietly behind the opposing team, together. This was repeated by the Notre Dame band and both teams at the opposite end of the field. This homage to each other’s institution was stunning in its humility and solidarity. Pure class on the field.
That day’s score didn’t matter, but what happened on the field, after the game, did.
It was easy to see how names like Knute Rockne, Rudy Ruettiger, and the Four Horsemen have been immortalized, and how “win one for the Gipper” and “Roo-dee (RUDY), Roo-dee” are chanted by so many when entering the stadium. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and for a few days, I was able to feel that spirit on campus and in the crowds.
Well done, Notre Dame.
I was introduced to author Anne Lamott when I went to grad school at Loyola University Maryland. It was in my Theological Anthropology class – my very first class offered that very first night of the semester in January, 2001, in Loyola’s graduate program – when I knew that my decision to change careers and go back to school was the right decision. No one else thought so, but I felt it that first night.
I was home. I belonged.
Anne Lamott’s thoughts on faith and her own spiritual journey are wonderful – funny, perceptive, profound. In her latest work, “Help, Thanks, Wow – The Three Essential Prayers,” Lamott says that keeping prayer simple – by asking for assistance, offering appreciation and feeling awe at the world – is enough, a way of “reaching out to be heard and hoping to be found.”
This is how Lamott describes the third great prayer of “Wow!” :
“Wow is often offered with a gasp, a sharp intake of breath, when we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty or destruction, of a sudden unbidden insight or an unexpected flash of grace. Wow means we are not dulled to wonder… Wow is about having one’s mind blown by the mesmerizing or the miraculous…” (p. 71)
What an appropriate way to describe a recent “Wow!” moment when I was fortunate enough to cross off yet another item on my bucket list – seeing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Since I was a little girl, my mother and I loved weather events, and spoke often and longingly about someday seeing the Northern Lights (actually, we spoke the same way about seeing Elvis Presley in concert, but that never came to fruition…).
So with the aurora forecast looking good for 2013, I set about researching a good place to “hunt the lights,” and since we (my husband, sister & brother-in-law) didn’t want to fly to Norway, we settled on Whitehorse, Canada in the Yukon Territory. We flew to Vancouver, changed planes and flew 2 more hours North to Whitehorse, then drove about a half hour more to the Takhini River Lodge. We had decided on staying 6 nights to optimize our chances of seeing the lights. We were lucky – we saw them 4 out of the 6 nights, the last 2 of those nights brighter than the first 2 nights.
Something I hadn’t realized – our eyes do not see the lights in the same colors as the camera does; in fact, when you see the changes in the sky – a slight lightening at first – the only way to confirm that you are looking at the lights is to take a picture, which shows the colors you see in images reproduced in books.
WOW !!! When I first realized what I was looking at, there was nothing else that came to mind, that I could say – WOW !!! The northern horizon slowly changed in its brightness, getting lighter, a shimmering curtain that swirled forward in folds at the same time it sent rays shooting up vertically like fingers into the black night. I couldn’t look away – I had goosebumps, my mouth was open, my eyes scanning the heavens – my dream had been realized, and I could not believe my luck, my blessings, my grace. And the stars, sparkling white against the dark carpet of sky…
At once, I was nothing more than a speck on one of countless planets in the universe, witness to something of such beauty that made me feel both insignificant, yet interconnected…both powerless, yet emboldened with the privilege of the experience…humbled by the grace of our existence.
The lights danced…and so did my my soul…