Thursday Review — Echoes of Memory

He lumbered.

He was tall, rangy, with huge hands, a well-tended beard, piercing blue eyes, with lips that could smirk on a moment’s notice. And he lumbered from side to side when he walked, dropping his feet purposely with each step. His white habit and black wool scapular, tied with a leather cincture, swayed back and forth like a pendulum released.

Trappist

He was a monk. A Trappist monk. He was Brother Steven. And I miss him, even though he’s still alive.

I met him long ago while on retreat in Virginia, a time of emotional upheaval as I went through my divorce. The first divorce in my family. It was a true retreat from the world, and a time of respite for mind, body and spirit. Each day was silent, a time of prayer, reflection, discernment, and attending their hours of Divine Office. Meals were provided, attended to in silence, but help was encouraged in the clean up after each night’s dinner.

Each monk’s day was spent in Divine Office, private prayer, manual labor, and study or reading, with idle talk strongly discouraged.

So of course, each night when I helped with the dishes, Brother Steven didn’t stop talking, and whenever I could jump in, neither did I.

He was a maverick of sorts, and chose to live in the retreat house as Guest Master because he didn’t always get along with the other monks in their residence. He believed in the importance of hospitality to travelers, and reveled in his position.

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I heard so many stories…

Like the younger Brother Steven, who when he first arrived at the farm that became the monastery, would climb all the way up the side of the grain silo each morning to sit and wait for the sunrise above the Shenandoah River.

Like the middle-aged Brother Steven, who when they buried one of their brothers in a linen shroud, stopped the burial so that he might take the man’s polished leather shoes. After all, he could put them to good use.

Practical. A maverick of sorts…

A man who fit the stereotype of the older woman who lived alone with 30 cats, Brother Steven only had about ten of them. Much to the chagrin of his brothers, he allowed them to live in the closed entryway at the front of the retreat house, for all who crossed the threshold to meet, allergies or no.

This same man with the acerbic wit and leveling gaze told me once of his favorite elderly cat, Mabel, and how he weaned her from a little kitten, watched her grow up and catch mice and become a good mother, all the while living off kitchen scraps lovingly placed outside each night, regardless of the weather. And how she slowed down and stayed away more often and ate less and less, until one day, Brother Steven knew. When she slowly came up to him to be held one last time, then slowly walked across the field and into the trees that lined the near-by river, he knew that she had come to say good-bye to her faithful keeper. With tears in his eyes, he told me he never saw Mabel again.

And I knew a part of him died with Mabel.

And when he heard about my divorce and saw my own tears, he held me in his arms and let me cry, the scratchy wool a comfort as it softened with my tears. His sarcasm gone, this giant of a man was gentle as a father would be with his daughter. When at last I was spent, he squeezed my arms and let me go, never to speak of it again.

Sacred ground. One soul reaching out to another with compassion and understanding.

Through the years, whenever I returned on retreat, I would know I was home as soon as I saw Brother Steven, and we would catch up on my problems, along with the world’s, each night when we did clean up. Until one year, I saw that he was different. He was often preoccupied, searching for words, more confused. He no longer read to us at dinner time, and when we cleaned up, he concentrated on his work, rather than talking.

That’s when I knew I was losing my friend, and that this time would likely be the real good-bye.

And it was. When I returned, there was a new Guest Master, and a lay person doing the clean up. Brother Steven was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.

Now the young man who climbed a silo each morning to watch the sunrise sat tied in a wheelchair, looking out a window at a landscape that only he could see. He failed to recognize anyone, his body frail. The strong shoulders that I had leaned on so very long ago were now stooped with age. I looked at his worn shoes and smiled, wondering if they were the ones he so conveniently “borrowed” from his brother who no longer needed them. Brother Steven’s hand rested on the house cat curled comfortably in his lap, and I hoped he was thinking of Mabel and their love for each other.

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I choked back tears as I leaned down to give him a hug, then a kiss on the top of his head. The head whose brain possessed a wit unmatched when in its prime, now atrophied and unrecognizable. Brother Steven was gone, buried some place deep within, with another Brother Steven in his place.

Then he looked up at me, and just for a moment – a very brief moment – I thought I saw a spark of recognition flare in his eyes, and we were back at the monastery, both of us younger, both of us friends. Then it disappeared. And I was reminded that the soul never fades away, that it lives within, a shining light that no one, or no thing, can extinguish.

Be well, Brother Steven. I will remember for you. God bless you. And thank you for the treasure that is you…

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The Flames Within

In Memoriam
Muath Al-Kassasbeh

The line of flames inches toward me, gathering momentum as it creeps closer.

Gasoline soaks my clothing and fills my nostrils, along with acrid smoke.

The flames jump through the cage and lick at the sand, navigating the snaking line in slow motion.

Time is short.

I pray peace to my loved ones and bow in thanksgiving for a life well-lived.

The fire shall consume me and join the fire within.

The flames shall reach to the heavens in a determined arc, more intense, never diminished.

A final blaze of glory.

I depart this life with honor.

I arrive at a new life, whole.

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Monday Meeting — Man Walks 21 Miles to Work

It takes James Robertson eight hours to make the 46-mile commute to and from work. He walks 21 of those miles every day.

Robertson, 56, is an injection molder at Schain Mold & Engineering, a plastic-parts manufacturer located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He lives in Detroit, and for the last decade, after his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him, he has had to rely on limited public transportation, occasional rides from others and his own two feet to make the daily trek, the Detroit Free Press reported. He is unable to afford the cost of buying and maintaining a car earning just $10.55 an hour, and he hasn’t moved closer to work because his girlfriend inherited the house where they live.

Robertson leaves around 8 a.m. to arrive at work ahead of his 2 p.m. shift, which ends at 10 p.m. He catches the last bus toward Detroit at 1 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 4 a.m., the outlet reports. He says a prayer that he arrives home safe each night, walking through the dangerous area along 8 Mile. Despite all this, he still manages to have a pristine attendance record and doesn’t complain.

worker 21 miles

“I can’t imagine not working,” he said.

After the Detroit Free Press published Robertson’s story, thousands responded on Facebook, asking how they could help. Evan Leedy, a student at Detroit’s Wayne State University, decided to set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for Robertson to buy a car.

Leedy told The Huffington Post in a phone call Monday he was inspired by Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton, who raised more than $1 million to send schoolkids from a crime-stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn on a trip to Harvard.

Initially, Leedy said, he didn’t even think anyone would donate. So he set the goal at a modest $5,000. In just one day, however, donations soared to nearly $50,000.

“This is obviously more than just a car now,” he told HuffPost. “It can turn into something way bigger than that. Maybe he could use this money to move out and move somewhere else … We’ve had a Chevy dealership as well as Honda corporate [reach out]. Both want to donate a car to him. So he can use this money for whatever else he needs.”

Update:

James Robertson, the Detroit resident who made headlines earlier this week for walking 21 miles to work each day, has received a brand new car as a gift from a local dealership, less than a week after his story went viral.

Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights on Friday reportedly invited the 56-year-old Michigan resident to test drive vehicles. Employees then surprised him with his favorite ride, a 2015 red Taurus.

In less than a week, at least 12,500 people raised more than $335,500 for Robertson. His story, first published in The Detroit Free Press on Feb. 1, inspired Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old student studying computer science at Wayne State University in Detroit, to create a crowd-funding campaign for him, just hours after the local newspaper posted the article to its Facebook page.

Leedy previously told msnbc he initially set the goal to $5,000, which was reached the same day. Before he went to bed on Sunday night, $37,000 had been raised. He wanted to buy Robertson a car, pay for his insurance, and provide professional help in managing the donations. Car dealerships soon began offering brand new vehicles to ease Robertson’s travel.

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Source: The Huffington Post, Cavan Sieczkowski
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Thursday Re-View — The Labyrinth of My Heart

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Solvitur ambulando . . . It is solved by walking . . .
~ St. Augustine ~

LABYRINTH OF MY HEART

A pilgrim, I stand at the entrance of this Sacred Path,
this Path of Prayer,
this Journey to the Center of Being.
I know not what to expect, but am assured that
walking forward will bring me closer to You.

I cannot see my way to the center;
the path twists and turns with no seeming direction.
One foot in front of the other,
one step at a time,
patient trust that You will show me the Way.

Walking the path without a map,
feeling myself empty in the quiet,
letting go of the control that I seem to need
so very much outside this circle,
releasing the chains as I move on.

Walking the curved path dulls my outside awareness,
while inside glistens with claritas and focus.
My heartbeat slows to a soothing rhythm,
lulling me to a place of peace
as I drink in this well for my spirit.

I hesitate, then stop, dropping to my knees,
resistant to the Way that lies before me.
You and Your Blessed Mother, one on each side of me,
lean down and whisper,
“Come with us, little one. Come.”

I shake my head no as my chin sinks to my chest,
exhausted, fearful,
a cloud of unknowing fogging my heart and my head.
“Don’t ask me to do this,” I beg, frozen, huddled
and twisted about my Being.

For I know if I move forward
I will be forever changed.
I will hand over myself
to journey to a place unknown.
I am comfortable where I remain.

Yet I stand up, shaking, knowing that
I will take this further journey.
The next step is commitment, a marriage,
a promise, a vow.
I will go but You must lead me.

What I lose, I may gain ten-fold;
what paralyzes me may set me free.
If I move on, I let go.
Total, fearless surrender.
Truth. Discovery. Light.

In the center – a communion of all
the tears, loss and desolation into
a treasury of sorts of all that is good;
into a community of love that surpasses
all understanding.

Sitting in the quiet, the whisper of spirit
on my face as I gain strength
for what is Being asked of me.
Be still and know that I am. Be still and know.
Be still. Be.

Centered, in the womb
of this mystical union between heaven and earth,
I receive the blessings of awareness and wholeness
as I return to the collective memory of my soul.
As above, so below.

I struggle to rise, then I am lifted unaware.
Empowered as the path unwinds
beneath my sure-footed steps,
its rhythms beckoning me, calling me
on my journey back to a life renewed.

My leaving becomes an arriving as I dance
in the shimmering light that is Grace.
Bringer of Light. Seeker of Truth.
Bearer of this Sacred Heart.
You are their Light.  Shine.

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Monday Meeting – One Man’s Tribute to His Wife

This Man Mixed His Wife’s Ashes Into Fireworks
And Blasted Them Across The Night Sky

The photo shows Annette Maunder’s father (left) and her husband (right) watching her ashes explode over Devonport Park in Plymouth.

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The 55-year-old lost her battle with cancer last month, but before she died, she came up with this beautiful idea for her ashes to be fired into the night sky.

Gary, her husband, said: ‘She would have loved it. It’s a good way to send her off.”

Funeral arranger Hayley Pell, from the Co-op, said: ‘In many cultures the funeral is an occasion that brings the whole community together in a grand celebration of a person’s life. Gary decided to do just that and, with the help of myself, Annette’s ashes have been interred into a firework.’

‘This is a fitting tribute and a great final farewell to Annette.”

wife
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Source: The Kindness Blog
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