Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Memoriam...

Written on August 31, 2004:

My firstborn child, Carl, died while scuba diving in Mexico in 1993, at the age of twenty-eight. I had already experienced the death of a husband and the death of a beloved younger sister. Perhaps those losses had prepared me in some small way for this life-wracking pain… but I must confess, it never really goes away, this agony from the loss of a child.
The best proof we have of the hidden gift in every struggle
is the fact that we survived the last one.
-Joan Chittister

today's memories
He would have
been forty-three,
my eldest son,
born in the wee hours
of this day,
all those many years                                                        
ago, to a frightened
young woman,
laboring alone
in the maternity ward
of an Army hospital.                                                       
It was the way of
those days- few
words of comfort
were offered though
drugs were...
my husband sent
home with the
words, "It'll be a while."
Long hours of
pain made worse
by lonely isolation
and a harried, unfeeling
nurse, who kept
covering me each time
I ejected the sheet,
my tiring body
sheathed in sweat
as it labored in
earnest to birth
this new life.
And in the way of
those days, he was
whisked away
after only a brief
glimpse assured me
he was healthy & well.      
We met face to face,
body to body, mother
and child, several
hours later and, oh,
the joy that flooded
my heart as tears
coursed down my
cheeks, my hands
running over his
tiny body, counting
fingers & toes, touching
every bit of skin,
taking him into my
heart & life inch by
precious inch.
My first-born..
and with the memory,
unbidden tears
course down my cheeks...
this time of grief, of
life untimely gone,
of flesh-of-my-flesh
torn away at
twenty-eight. He
would have been
forty-three today,
my eldest son, and
I miss him still. Part
of me has gone
with him, for what mother
could let her child
make that final
journey alone?

*And perhaps all of this offers at least a bit of an explanation for my on-going sense of disconnection...for the sense of not fitting in my own skin. This day always sneaks up on me, my only warning this feeling of dis-ease with myself and my surroundings and my life. It has been 18 years...I should be "over it" by now, shouldn't I? Yet how do I heal a broken heart which is broken open again and again and yet again by the heartbreaks of this world which continue to become part of me...connections unbidden and yet very real.
A broken-open heart

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Long and Winding Road...

I’m finding it difficult to organize my thoughts, my feelings…finding it difficult to explain myself to myself, let alone to anyone else. And I find myself retreating into, taking refuge in, the comforting familiarity of my former life, the life in which I have been dwelling for some years now…perhaps for half a lifetime. I don’t know…I don’t remember…I can’t make sense of any of it.

The images in my mind run rampant…the long, dreadful walk into the bowels of Kibera along the muddy, filth-strewn, germ-laden path past houses which could not even lay claim to that name…dirt-floored hovels without windows where empty-eyed, snot-nosed children in rags sat in doorways, staring as we walked by, the “rich” muzungus, heading to Tabitha’s Clinic, an oasis of cleanliness and sanity in a world seemingly gone mad.

The dark stairway leading to the apartment home of Julius and Beatrice and their children, the hall smelling of urine and damp with mold, as neighborhood children crowded around us, making of us curiosities at once amusing and remarkable.

The begging women along the streets, shoving their little ones forward to hold out their hands to beg, setting in motion yet another generation of poverty, of believing in the acceptability of begging, in the notion that they are owed a living by others who have more.

The horror of the images at the Kigali Memorial, reminders of the hundreds of thousands slaughtered, hacked to death by their neighbors and family members for belonging to a different tribe.

The remarkable beauty of the Village Market shopping center in Nairobi, with its flowing fountains, even in the midst of Kenya’s dreadful drought, with families sitting at outdoor tables enjoying a meal together, while others shopped in the up-scale shops for electronics and clothing and jewelry and expensive shoes, as if only a few miles away a totally different world did not exist.

So how in the world do I reconcile all of this? How do I put the pieces of this incredibly complex puzzle together, this puzzle which my life has become, this puzzle which is human existence on the planet Earth at this time? How do I define for myself my role, and what are the lines which I need to write for myself in order to live with integrity and truth from this day forward? For I am not the person I was when I departed for Kenya on July 3rd. Oh, I may look the same and sound the same, but I have been changed. I see with different eyes, hear with different ears, feel with a different heart. And though I have been trying to deny it by attempting to immerse myself in life-as-usual, I know life-as-usual is a lie…for I am living with a broken-open heart…a heart which bleeds for the hungry, the poor, the sick, the lonely, the hopeless as never before. And the woman looking back at me from the mirror looks through tear-dimmed eyes, eyes which seem a thousand years old, eyes which have beheld a different truth which I cannot deny.

So, here I am, God of Truth, God of Compassion. Here I am…though what that means in the grand scheme of things I do not know. Here I am…and where I go from here? That is in your hands…I can only open myself to wherever that may be along this long and winding road which is my life.

Monday, August 29, 2011

This and That...

The storm has passed, though its effects will be felt in many places for many days. New York City skated by with far less damage than feared, while Vermont braces for record-breaking flooding. And so it goes...all the while we humans try to predict and spell out and understand, making plans and prognostications, Nature behaves in unproscribed ways, surprising us again and again, reminding us that we are simply human- with all that means, to be sure- but human nevertheless. and some things are simply beyond our ken and control.

And so, this morning, I send out my love and care and concern to those who have been in Irene's oxymoronic path...even as I hold close those who grieve, those who are alone, those who don't know or appreciate their own value and uniqueness, those for whom death approaches. May this be a holy day for each one of them and you as you seek to walk the path before you. May you celebrate the gift of your humanity, your creation as a child of God. Blessings, dear ones.

This moment...THIS moment is
what I have, as air fills my
lungs, as my heartbeat sends
life-sustaining blood coursing
through my veins, as enzymes
and hormones cause my body
to function in ways both
natural and mysterious...

This moment...this very moment
I am alive, aware of my humanity-
      faults & failings,
      gifts & graces,
      joys & sorrows,
      cowardice & courage,
      strength & weakness...

This moment...this very moment
I revel in my awareness of
the Divine in, with, and around me
and in exultant humility,
I give thanks
                for this moment.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Morning Music...and the Roar of the Wind...

The breath-taking, sublime beauty
of a Bach violin concerto begins my day,
accompanied by the songbird chorus
resounding from the trees,
while distant traffic sounds add
a counterpoint of modernity,
as the barking of neighborhood dogs
interposes a staccato line to
the morning symphony.

In the midst of this morning's glorious sounds, I am ever mindful of the hurricane which is bearing down upon the NC shore and the Northeast and so I offer this prayer:

O Great Protector, O Source of Strength,
be with those in the path of Hurricane Irene;
grant them courage and wisdom and shelter
from the storm. Even as our part of the
country rejoices in the prospect of rain, the already-saturated northeast fears what this weekend may bring. 
May they be comforted and may help
be at hand. As our beleagured planet
seeks to right and balance itself, may we refrain from shaking fists of blame and instead offer open arms of assistance...
your arms in our human flesh.
                 Let it be so.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

At Random...

I love learning something new every's surprise came during my "quiet time", bringing a gasp of wonder. Perhaps it will surprise you, too. The word RANDOM originally referred to that moment when a horse at full speed has all four hooves off the ground...a moment of total freedom and unbridled energy, for when a horse has all four feet off the ground it is flying...holding nothing back.

Perhaps it needs to be that for us, too...being at random...that moment of going with whatever is happening, whatever the situation, trusting in the goodness and friendliness of the Universe, allowing whatever touches us to change our direction...LETTING GO.

    Risking everything
   Allowing whatever happens, to BE
   Not holding back or closing off
   Daring to go with the flow
   Opening heart and mind and life
   Making the leap and flying!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Living with a Wide-Open Heart...

Strength of heart comes from knowing that the pain that we each
must bear is part of the greater pain shared by all that lives.
-Jack Kornfield

morning prayer IV
Not grasping,
but groping,
   I begin my
   morning prayer...
   letting my heart
   break open with
   the pain of the world...
   the pain in which I share...

Holy Mystery, ground of Being,
   I lay myself open,
   offer myself to be guided,
   to be used as an instrument
   in the healing of the world.
          My bit is small- but
          it IS my bit...
          as important as that
             of every other being
          who walks this planet,
                  breathes the air,
                  drinks the water,
                  eats of its bounty.

Do not let the immensity
of the pain overwhelm me-
or the many others who
willingly shoulder this
task of healing...
   enable & enliven us
   with purpose & hope.
As this amazing, fragile planet
struggles to survive,
   let me be consciously
   part of the solution...
   as I myself struggle
   to live with integrity &
                     gratitude &
                     wonder &
                     a deep sense of
                       my connection with
                       all of life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A re-made heart...a re-shaped life...the results of my summer trip to
East Africa, though I do not yet know what the final shape will be. Once again, I am struggling with perhaps, just for today, I will stop struggling and simply rest in the arms of Holy Divinity, certain that S/He will whisper instructions in my ear, when I am open and ready to hear.

Only hope can give us the courage to face the future and to stand
deeply in the present without running from it.
-Matthew Fox
psalm of the breaking-open heart
What is causing my heart
to break wide open?
     The pain I see & hear
           around me…
     the need & struggle &
           frustration of so many…
     scenes of war, famine, & flood...
           dying children, grieving parents,
                 dying species…
            rampant disregard for
                  the life of Planet Earth.

So, to what are you calling me,
     Divine Spirit? What am I to do?
I cannot do everything,
     but I can do one thing!
          Do not let my fears immobilize me-
                                fear of failure
                                fear of the opinions of others
                                fear that my little bit will
                                      mean nothing in the grand
                                      scheme of things
You have looked into my heart…
     you know me more fully
        than I know myself.
Grant me the wisdom
                the insight
                the honesty
      to answer your call
      to go deep…and to emerge breathless,
              dripping in the waters
                            of rebirth
                            of truth
                                  of holiness & wholeness,
                                     alive with purpose…
                                     enlivened with direction…