Monday, September 30, 2013

THE IMPOSSIBLE

Thus says the Lord of hosts:  Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the Lord of hosts?
                                                                                                            Zechariah 8:6

All that we do
is touched with ocean, yet we remain
on the shore of what we know.
                            Richard Wilbur

The combination of these two thoughts from my morning prayer time (interrupted by a call from the window company saying the new windows are in and will be coming at 8 AM tomorrow, much earlier than I had expected) reinforced the perception, particularly since my husband died, that all of life is shot through with mystery.  We think we know where we are going, but of course we don't.  We think we understand life and can control it, but we can't.  When we lived in New Jersey, I imagined that we would live in that same area all our lives, perhaps move to a larger house, but that after I became a famous poet, the house would be preserved as the place where I lived (well, I was young and foolish then)!

When we made our WorldWide Marriage Encounter Weekend, I had no idea that by bringing a Spirit-filled wind of openness to our marriage, we would move to California with two little girls and a two month old baby seven months later and be off on an adventure that challenged us to change frequently in our marriage, our communication, our perceptions of other people and of the Church, and in what the Lord wanted us to do in our lives.  And after 30 years, when we had come back as a presenting Team for WWME and were committed to living that lifestyle for the rest of our lives, the Lord took my beloved husband to himself and I am once again facing the largest and most daunting change of my life.
As I have told many people who have called me, come to see me, taken me out to breakfast or lunch or dinner, I never expected to be a widow, since I was the one always going to the doctor and my husband enjoyed perfect health until he contracted a virulent cancer that took his life less than 7 months after he was diagnosed.  And yet, I am so aware of the grace that is poured out on me each day, making me a much stronger woman than I have ever been, and more grateful for the life I am given each day, and determined to use it for the Lord's glory, just as my beloved husband did very consciously each day he lived after he was told of his cancer.  So I remain open to the impossible and alert to the ocean running just out of hearing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

RESOLUTIONS NEED TIME

I've spent the past two days going back and forth to our son's new university as he has gotten registered and we've been oriented.  I have been oriented, too, for although this is our sixth child to start at a new college, with every other college entrance, my husband was at the helm, paying the fees, checking their books and schedule, and making sure they were set.  Now, I am the one in charge, learning (with my oldest daughter's help) how to fill out a FAFSA and navigate the rough waters of financing an education at a private university.  This was not in our budget when my husband became ill, since our son had chosen community college, but now everything is different.

Today, however,  he is finishing up his job, and I have the rest of the day to myself, and I am trying to get things done and get ready for another onslaught of reconstruction tomorrow.  I am going back to David Allen's Getting Things Done to try to reorganize what I can and see how much I can accomplish when left to myself.  I have discovered that it is almost impossible to carry out my organizing resolutions when I am also trying to run the house and oversee the reconstruction.

I came home Friday and discovered that my reconstruction agent and my son had dismantled and emptied out the storage room that had been a collection point for everything left over, as well as Christmas decorations, a vast Playmobil set up, and a bed.  We have the flooring ready to go, and I was convinced to get some paint for the walls since they have become marked and dingy over the 28 years since our addition was built.  I chose a blue named for the Canadian town where we vacationed after our fourth daughter's wedding, and when we begin transforming that room, I will really believe that we are finally moving forward!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

KEEP THE LAMP BURNING

To keep a lamp burning we  have to keep putting oil in it.
                                                      --Mother Teresa

This was the quote for September 27, the 11 month anniversary of my husband's death, in Healing after Loss.  Martha Whitmore Hickman's reflection on this reflects very much my own experience as I approach the one year anniversary next month:  "At first we are almost immobilized.  We do what we have to do and are grateful for the customs and rituals that guide us through those first days."  My beloved husband died at 4:14 PM on Saturday.  From Friday morning until he died, we had friends coming to our back yard to pray and sing as they heard that he was near death.  Many said the Rosary, or prayed in silence.  At one point, I heard a dear friend who is a bass in our choir, sing the Divine Mercy chaplet.  On Friday night, several couples from WorldWide Marriage Encounter came and prayed and left vigil lights on top of the tall tomato trellis in our garden.  My daughter and I went out to blow them out, since it was very warm and windy, and discovered they were lit by batteries.  We left them on all night, since we could see them from our bedroom and if my husband had chanced to be awake enough, he could have seen them from his hospital bed.  I found the sight of them incomparably comforting.  My two oldest daughters took turns reading the Liturgy of the Hours to my husband since he had prayed it for many years, and whenever they reached one of the prayers that was said every day, we could see my husband's lips moving as he prayed with them.  They also took the night shifts so I could catch some sleep, and both of those last two mornings, when I awoke,  I found both their babies asleep next to me.  That was not only comforting but deeply healing and I think of that often as they grow and become more dear to me.  When dear friends arrived to pray just after my husband died, they offered to let them know at the parish, since they were going to the Saturday evening Mass, so we didn't have to make that call.

My daughter asked me if I would rather go to the neighboring parish where not as many people knew me, and I told her I would set my alarm for 5, as I have done almost every Sunday for the last four years since I rejoined the choir, and see how I felt then.  When the alarm went off, I got up and dressed and warmed up on the French horn, and the routine just carried me along.  All of the family who were there came with me and sat filling up an entire pew right next to my spot in front of the choir, our choir director let me choose the Communion hymn we sang, and our pastor in his homily mentioned the faith of our family even in the face of death.  I suppose we were all somewhat numb, and yet I felt a great sense of solidarity with our parish, where we had lived for nearly 30 years, our Marriage Encounter community, and everyone else who reached out to us both during my husband's illness and after his death.

The flood has pushed me forward into Chapter 2 of my life much faster than if I had undertaken it on my own, and on the anniversary of his death yesterday, our son went for orientation at the young Catholic university, where my husband had been one of the five founders.  It has been a long and winding road for our son, from a year at community college to a year at home helping us when my husband was ill to working in the education department at one of the local vacation destinations.  I have had to think about what I should be doing with the time I have been given much more quickly as I am working with my reconstruction agent to design my office and redesign some of the rest of the house, and to redesign my financial plans as our son begins at a private university.  All of this upheaval gives me very little time to sit around and feel sorry for myself; instead, I am constantly being called to keep putting oil in my lamp so it will glow brightly and light the lives of others.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

LITTLE (AND BIG) BUSYNESS

Great peace is found in little busy-ness.        
                                           --Chaucer

When I found this quote (again in Healing after Loss), my first thought was that since I took over the finances and particularly since the flood, I have had no lack of busy-ness.  My reconstruction agent told me that there was a lot to do, and each day I am discovering more of what she meant.  She is very organized, and as I watch the way she works, I have been learning more about becoming organized, even though it will never be part of me the way it is with her.  But as we have worked in the different areas affected by the flood, moved furniture, and decided on paint, tile, and yesterday, some of the laminated lumber, I have watched in admiration as she paints a wall, then goes to work on tile while the paint dries, looks up something we need on the computer while the tile sets,  so that the work is always going forward.  She has been here almost every day, organizing the work and looking forward to what we need to do next, and not only am I enjoying seeing the work proceed, but I have enjoyed getting to know her even better since we have time to talk as well.  She has good advice for the greeting card business I will have in my new office as well as for how to organize the storage room so the grandchildren will have a nice play area.  She told me that when she was four, her father gave her her first saw, and she has been working with tools ever since.

So far, she cut and laid the tile for the laundry room and half bath, installed a mural (which she cut to fit the walls) and painted the ocean up the wall, and is now extending that to the nearby cabinets which were in bad shape.  We found a porthole mirror to replace the old one my parents had put up which was gradually browning out, and re-installed the washer, dryer and toilet, with my son's help.  In what will be my office, the walls are now a light, tranquil lilac, with one large wall a deep purple.  We've ordered new triple glazed windows that will lower our energy bills, and she's installed tile in the entry to the office, which I think she will grout today.  And we've recycled three bins full of old papers, sent batches of old furniture to St. Vincent de Paul (except for two chairs, which they refused, but were picked up by someone after a few days on the sidewalk in front of our house). Yesterday we picked up the laminated lumber for the storage room (which only had a plywood floor) at a great discount, and found the lumber we want for the office, at a price half what we had seen at another store.  And last week, she and my son spent about six hours installing the lighting for the office--a beautiful sixteen foot track that is bent in curves, with halogen lights that swivel in any direction and light up the entire office area.  One of my favorite things that she has done is to give me a supply closet.  Before, it had a file cabinet in it, filled with old files, which we either recycled or gave to the appropriate parties, and now it is painted in varying shades of purple (as she used up the paint on her roller), with white shelves that are almost full of office supplies which I have discovered in various other parts of the house.  She even stenciled little birds flying or sitting on the walls of the closet, and I leave the door of the closet open just to enjoy the view!

And although I am much busier with all of this than I ever expected I would be when I became a widow, it has been very therapeutic most of the time.  While I don't know that I could say that I have "great peace," I have found that small islands of peace emerge from great busy-ness.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

SMALL THINGS

Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, softsigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.
                     --Theodore Roethke

Another quote from Healing after Loss touched me this morning after my son left to spend the day with friends and then work an overnight camp.  I had gone to the farmers' market for the first time in several weeks, and it was nice to see many of the farmers and vendors who have become my friends in the years I have been going.  I got leeks from the Dutch farmer couple, a lovely mix of mushrooms and wax and green beans from the very first farmer I met who has the most delicious strawberries when they are in season, cheese curds, bird friendly coffee, and sushi grade salmon brought out from a special place in the truck when I asked if they had any.  When I got home, I had a belated small breakfast (since it is a day of fasting and prayer for peace requested by Pope Francis) and heard an occasional note from the beautiful alto Gregorian wind chime given me by a friend in honor of my beloved husband.  She didn't know how much he loved Gregorian chant, but whenever I hear the wind playing in the chimes, I am reminded again of his presence still in my life.

With the insurance company no farther forward in determining what they will pay towards the second batch of wet carpet and wall damage, things are still in somewhat of an uproar after the flood which leaves me in a state of disequilibrium, and I find myself having a hard time settling down to do any of the major projects I think I should, or even getting to my French horn practice earlier in the day than nine o'clock at night.  When I told my reconstruction agent how I felt yesterday, she took me into the area that will be my new office, and I went through an entire box of Marriage Encounter things and sorted them all out, and then we finally moved the big file cabinet out of the closet so she can remove the last of the carpet and get that painted and fixed up with shelves for all my office supplies.  Once I had done all that, I did feel much better.  And, in addition, this week she painted the large wall a deep purple, with glossy white trim, and when I think we haven't really gotten much done, I just look at that beautiful wall and know that we are making progress!