Are you where you want to be?


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Musings: Our Mortality

Yet another friend has returned to the great eternity.  Just over a year ago I dealt with the passing of five people who were close to me, some more than others.  Four of them died within a seven-week span, and the fifth, my dear church sister Susan, just two months after that.  At the time I remember feeling a sense of dis-ease, and although I have many spiritual tools and good friends to help me deal with this kind of thing, I was aware of “descending into greyness” and came to the conclusion that I was in a mild depression, which is not abnormal or alarming given the circumstances.

Last Thanksgiving, as Rich and I spent our now traditional week down in Orlando, I was on the computer and needed to make a rare (for me) foray into Facebook.  While there I found an entry by Rosa, the daughter of a dear old friend, Santiago.  Santiago was an engineer who I came to know very well, along with his wife Josefina, when I lived on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, Italy in the 70’s.  But more than an engineer, Santiago was an artist.  He painted using many mediums, he created exquisite mosaics, and he was a talented guitar player and writer.  Santiago was also my unofficial mentor, and he re-awoke my dormant Muse and I began writing and painting again.

Rosa’s posting was a photo of Josefina, and the caption read: “Here’s Mummy putting roses on Pappy’s tomb for his birthday.”  My hands froze over the computer keyboard as the significance of those words sank in.  I contacted Rosa immediately and she confirmed the sad news that Santiago had had a very serious stroke from which he had never recovered, and that he had passed last April.  Once the initial feelings of deep grief subsided, I was able to feel so grateful for his presence in my life and also for the fact that just two years ago my husband had gifted me with a week-long trip to Puerto Rico so that I could visit Santiago and Josefina and spend some wonderful time with them after about twenty five years of absence.

On our way home from that stay in Orlando, Rich and I stopped to visit with old friends from our time in Italy.  PA had been Richard’s Department Head on his first ship, U.S.S. Belknap (since decommissioned) in Gaeta, Italy in the mid-80’s, and then in the 90’s he had been his CO on another tour in Naples, Italy.  PA retired in the early 2000’s and on New Year’s Day 2006 he had a massive brain aneurism which robbed him of motor coordination and most speech.  He and Deb, his devoted wife, returned to live in DeBary, FL in 2007.  PA was wheelchair bound and had very little communication capability but when we visited them, which coincided with our Orlando trips each year, we could see that PA was “still there”.  Recognition and interest would flare in his eyes and we somehow knew that he appreciated our visit.

During the evening of 3 January 2013, we heard from Deb that PA was not long for this world and, in fact, he died in the early hours of the next day.  Yesterday we attended his funeral Mass and my husband was asked to speak about PA on behalf of the family.  As I heard Rich’s words of appreciation for this man, I was also drawn to my own place of gratitude – gratitude not only for PA and all he represented both as a a Naval officer and as a family man, and for the opportunity we had to know the whole family and be enriched by their presence in our lives, but also for life in general, the precious gift that it is, and for friendship and the gift that that is. I was also grateful that God had given us the opportunity to be present and supportive to our friends at their time of loss and deep personal grief.

As I remembered our last visit with Deb and PA, I then thought about the passing of my beloved soul-sister Cawne the week following Thanksgiving.  I will be writing a separated posting about Cawne because of the important place she held in my heart and in my life.  All that I will say here is that she was one of three people near and dear to me that I have lost recently all in the space of seven weeks.  That makes a grand total of eight losses in just over fourteen months.  I cannot help but wonder what is the “message” or the lesson behind all that loss, and I have been resting in the Creator’s loving arms about that.

There are three themes that have surfaced.  The first is that I have been prepared to carry this weight and, in dealing with my own grief, I have been able to support many people as they have journeyed through their grief. The second is related to my preparation as a spiritual director.  I firmly believe that I am being groomed to help others as they deal with their grief, to be a spiritual companion in this particular stage of peoples’ lives.  And the third is that I believe Creator is also teaching me about and gently bringing me closer to full acceptance of my own mortality.

And so as I close this blog I am also acutely aware that I want to write another blog dedicated to this particular topic.  So many people, in the Western world are scared to think about death and dying and live in a state of complete fear and denial of death, especially their own or that of their loved ones.  And yet death is the one thing that we are guaranteed to have to face in life.  Because of personal denial of the possibility of death and the general culture surrounding death in the Western world, many people are completely unprepared for the moment. Without being morbid,  I want to write about the subject so that whoever reads about it can choose to be somewhat prepared.

Shared Wisdom: More About Grace

It never ceases to amaze me how Creator speaks to me, affirming and reaffirming me as I make my way through the joys and sorrows of this earthly life.  And right now I am filled with both joy and sorrow.  Yesterday I spent the day at the Grand Canyon in Arizona and my heart was so filled with joy, awe and gratitude that I completely choked up several times, unable to even speak in the face of such vast beauty and majesty.  At the same time, back home in Jacksonville, FL, my dear friend and sister-in-Christ, Susan, is very, very sick and probably in transition from this life to the next even as I write. 

But even as I experience these two very raw emotions side by side, I am aware of the grace of God present in both situations. Two days ago I wrote about “grace”, and it does not surprise me that when I opened my Daily Word yesterday morning the topic was “grace”.  And as I received the latest update on Susan this morning, I felt called to go back and read that reflection which I share with you in its entirety here.

“Daily Word, Tuesday April 12, 2011                                                                                                        Grace

There is no place that is beyond God’s love.

As part of God’s creation, I am blessed with the gift of grace.  Grace is bestowed upon me unconditionally, without my needing to earn it or prove I deserve it.  Like the father rushing to meet his returning prodigal son, God meets me when I seek the kingdom.  Moreover, grace is active in me even when I am not consciously seeking, for there is no place in my mind or heart that is beyond God’s love.

Grace is visible in my life when the consequences of a mistake are gentler than they might have been.  Grace is tangible when I feel blessed beyond all imagining.  Love wells up within my heart until I feel the full impact of God’s presence.

Thank you, God, for your gift of grace.  I know I am always in your loving care.

           Grace be with all of you. (Hebrews 13;25)

Peace be with you.

Spirituality: More about Prayer

It seems as though Spirit is nudging me along this prayer path.  I think I pray quite a lot.  However, in preparation for this upcoming “instructional weekend” in the Audire program that I am participating in, I was asked to prepare a “prayer history”.  One of the questions that we were offered to use for reflective journaling on this activity asked, “How do you pray now?  When?  Where?  What posture?  Why?”

As I gave some serious thought to this, I came to the conclusion that maybe I didn’t pray as much as I thought.  Initially I said I prayed on and off all day, that I hold a running conversation with God as I go about my daily business –which I do.  However, what I really do is invite God along in my day and then I give Him a running commentary on things as they unfold.  (As if He didn’t know already!!)

Sometimes, if I am dealing with some difficult stuff, I lay it all out before Him and then ask for support, comfort, courage, or maybe a solution.  Other times I may have enjoyed a couple of hours with some girlfriends, and so I thank Him for the gift of friends and for the enjoyable time spent with them.  Part of my volunteer work is to help in the Ministry of Consolation at my church,so frequently I am interceding on behalf of the family which is dealing with grief.  And I realize that all of this is prayer of a sort, but it’s kind of “muddied up” in the middle of all my daily busyness.

I do carve out about an hour and a half in the morning when I get up and this I spend in quiet time with my Creator.  On the odd occasion that I choose to rush into my day without spending time with God first, my day usually spirals downward until I slow down and catch up with Him.  Then there are those times when I bring myself to a screeching halt in a mad chaotic day and I find somewhere quiet and private (sometimes that’s the bathroom!), and I say a formal prayer like the Our Father or the Serenity Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis.  Just focusing on the old familiar words, rather like a ritual, slows me down and helps me feel closer to my God and, consequently, calmer.

So here I am preparing for this weekend, the theme for which is Pray Always, Pray All Ways, and I find myself thinking deeply about how I pray, which is good because sometimes we have to shake things up a little, change things, or else it all becomes too routine.  So here I share with you a prayer that we were asked to write.  It is a berakah, which comes from the Judaic tradition.  It means a “blessing prayer” and is based on this format: Who (are you praying to); Do (what has He done for you); You (what do you need from Him right now); Through (Jesus Christ).

Abba, Creator and Spirit of Love, who gave me the greatest gift of Your Son, Jesus, I am full of gratitude for all the blessings You have given me.  You saved me from self destruction and led me back to You, filling my life with joy.  Please continue to bless, protect, and grow me and lead me on the path You wish me to tread.  I ask the same for my family, especially Melissa.  All this I dare to ask through Your love, that is Jesus Christ.  Amen!

As we are coming up to Thanksgiving, I would also like to offer you this beautiful prayer that I came across the other day.


Oh God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
  When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.

Samuel F. Pugh

Blessings to you all.

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