Dear Family and Friends,
I'm indebted to Kelly Bellis, Pax Christi/Maine's former web-master for the two attached striking photos of Francis. They were taken during a weekend conference/retreat outside Bangor ME, at an intimate unique center created by Georgia Koskiusko and her husband out in the country. Our good friend, the late Jim Harney was the organizer for that fall weekend, possibly in 2005.
One photo shows Francis listening intently to Jim's mentor from out of state who lead the retreat. The other photo, where Francis looks absorbed in prayer, was taken around 8:00 AM when we were likely listening to our guide during a nature walk.
Lynn and Lee enlarged and framed Kelly's photos for me as a surprise Mother's Day gift. They're perfect icons for my sitting/prayer time.
Last Sunday, at the planting of our "Be loved" Francis tree, -- the beautiful Japanese Stewartia (whose name Rowan now knows,) -- I read some of the passages you wrote to or about Francis. One friend told me afterwards it "rounds out Francis." I've found it an uplifting exercise to cull them from your cards.
Rereading them and your notes has also nourished me. When I read this must-share quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer last week, it was as if for the first time:
can make up for the absence
of someone we love.
And it would be wrong
to try to find a substitute.
We must simply hold out
and see it through.
That sounds very hard at first
but at the same time
it is a great consolation.
For the gap, as long as
it remains unfilled
preserves the bond
It is nonsense to say that
God fills the gap.
God does not fill it.
But on the contrary
keeps it empty
and so helps us to keep alive
with each other
even at the cost of pain.
Next weekend I'm going on a retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault, the author of Love Is Stronger Than Death. It'll be held at a retreat center at Mount Desert Island in Seal Cover Maine: http://www.alcyoncenter.org/ I'm most grateful to Martin Steingesser and his partner Judy for leading me to this book which applies to me in some important ways.
And so indirectly, they've led me to this upcoming retreat!
With gratitude for love that never dies,
PS There are unsolicited signs that Rowan remembers Francis. Besides reminding me once again (She does this almost weekly!) about dusting his (St.) Francis statue, Rowan made a loving unexpected gesture on Francis' behalf: She had gone to a party where pre-painted eggs, (prepared by the mothers) Polish style, had been emptied of the egg itself and filled with confetti after which the children play with them. She had brought me one on Sunday and tucked it into a larger blue plastic egg.
Well on Thursday, her usual visit day here, making sure I saw her do it, -- she ceremoniously took the egg where I had placed it and put it right on top of the large photo of Francis, (the one she had hugged before) sitting on the dining room table. That poster awaits more work from me when I shrink-wrap it for her future viewing. She did this with an air of satisfaction. I was satisfied too.
PPS: The following week, and for the first time, when Rowan arrived at our home she hugged the St. Francis statue standing in the entryway.
Then a week later, seemingly coming out of nowhere, she said: "Pepere is alive." I let that sink in a moment and then asked: "Rowan, when you said 'Pepere is alive,' what made you say that? "I don't know," she replied. I see that mystery and the limits of human knowledge do not prevent conviction and another kind of knowing, even, and maybe especially, in a child.
So here are your quotes, -- FRANCIS THROUGH OTHERS' EYES, written to and about Francis in emails and cards:
He was, without any doubt, a shining star in the active way he lived his principles. He struck me, every time I had the pleasure of seeing him, as being the kind of thorough-going grown-up we all aspire to be: gentle and confident, able to engage sincerely and comfortably with anyone, either lightly or seriously, as the occasion called for. He stood up for folks who could not speak up well for themselves. Francis leaves inspired memories.
It feels to me that a huge hole has been created in this world. Francis was a treasure, very calm, very loving, emanating warmth and kindness always. I sensed that he didn't have a mean fiber or bone anywhere in his body.
I liked Francis' presence, always, -- his kind way of listening and speaking.
His tender attendance to our dying mother has left us with such enduring affection. All accolades for him will never exceed what he deserves. His graciousness will always be remembered.
Sitting next to yoga often, in yoga class, I always felt such a quiet joy and strength from him. I will never forget his smile.
His eyes shone when he smiled. He had such presence.
I don't think there was ever a person who was not touched in some way by his presence. He lived his life fully and shared openly his spirit with the generosity and caring of a whole human being. As a gentle and quiet man his actions spoke much more than any words could say.
(Many many people spoke of Francis' kindness and gentleness:)
An extraordinary man...a gifted and intelligent man...the kindest, dearest man.....a gentle and loving man (rare, indeed)... truly one of the gentlest souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.... a peaceful and reverent man.... Such a kind and gentle spirit has left this world....a gentle spirit with a quiet sense of humor...You are such a beautiful human being, with a quiet, gentle way about you that touches all who come in contact with you... "gentle and holy soul."
He leaves much as an example of what a loving and caring human being looks like -- for others to emulate.
Francis was an inspiration to me, living, in the best spiritual sense, what I envision an authentic Christian life to be. He was also a "good father" to many of us....What a great soul he was! Our community has felt a significant loss. I'm adding my small voice to the collective.
I would guess it was 15 years ago, maybe more, the first time I met you. It was at a vigil in Monument Square. It was cold. You had a sign. You introduced yourself, embracing me, a hug which I soon came to know was your trademark. There were more vigils on even more frigid days on Commercial Street in front of the BIW ship repair facility. While the rest of us shivered, the cold didn't seem to bother you, ever smiling that sweet smile. What an endearing man, my wife said. Endearing is the right word.
I write with admiration for Francis' patience and unbowed humor in his daily encounters with pain...Francis is one of those great souls who shine in our midst, making the world more nonviolent, just, wise and good simply by being their beautiful, godly selves.
A source of inspiration because he modeled the values he espoused.
Francis will always be remembered because of how he lived his life. What a life and ministry he had! His was "a life well spent, an exemplary life well-lived.
As we Quakers say, "Let your life speak." His surely did, -- of love and peace.
I smile recalling Francis as a gentle ray of sunshine whose presence had an amazing and calming effect on people who knew him and came in contact with him.
I was moved to see Francis' special obituary in my newspaper and flooded with such good memories of who and how he was that I want to write you. You met me only briefly, but as a member of Community Psychiatry at Maine Medical Center, and later with Geriatric Psychiatry. I worked with him many times. His humanity, caring and determination to better the lives of those he served shone through always, but my favorite memory is of a training experience we had. He and I (This was in the 70's) were lying at right angles on the floor of some church hall, arm wrestling! The idea was gender equality or empowerment or something, but I remember our joyful competitiveness & the fact that I actually made some headway but the didn't let me win.
Francis was an oasis for me during those moments after mass, or at a gathering of parishioners. There he was, peacefully present among us, silent mostly, and I would sidle up to him and be blessed by a conversation inevitably insightful with a bit of wit and wisdom and a twinkle or two for good measure.
The memory of his idealism, commitment to justice and love for fellow human beings will live on.
I can only hope that the loss of my wife or either of my brothers comes after such a fruitful interval.
Francis' life of great courage, honesty, and gratitude was such a full expression of his intentional life! His was truly a life lived with intention...
Always the rock for Elaine, always kind to all, and now a leader in how to let go with courage, grace, faith and love! You are teaching us all the most valuable lesson we might ever need.
I reflect on the life experiences we have shared together growing up on the farm and looking up to you for guidance, as an older brother. I remember it was you who pushed for higher education for me with my parents and that step in attending St FX has enriched my life experience greatly.
Francis and I first met about 1976. We were both in the newly formed Lifeline Program at USM. He and I would go out for runs together. We would usually run about three miles....For me there was no warming up period with Francis. I liked him right away. And it wasn't long before I admired and looked up to him. He was easy to be with and I greatly respected his points of view.
Thanks for the example of your life of integrity, for your smile, your twinkly eyes and your kindness. Your presence and friendship have meant so much to me.
Francis, -- Great integrity epitomizes how we think of you. You are a man who really pays attention to his inner voices: you have somehow been able to find the strength and courage to " speak truth to power." And you have done so in a way that was not provocative. You were a man who knew right from wrong and while many of us might choose to look the other way, you could quietly take a stand when you knew it was important to do so.
When in Yoga with you and Elaine I always kept an eye on you to make sure I could keep up, and I usually didn't. I loved his presence in yoga class and the sweet way he always consented to demonstrate, to be used as an example.
His was a life of great integrity. I believe the contribution of his integrity to the universe does not end...
Your sweet courageous spirit, humble strength and loving presence have always been gifts to us.
My prayer is that as my time draws closer, I will be able to move forward with the grace and joy (in the midst of pain) I see in you, Francis.
We are both in awe of the grace which you exhibit as you approach the end of earthly life and from this we draw strength of our own to deal with our own feelings around loss of a loved one.
My fondest Francis memories include his vibrant smile and hearty laugh, -- from Camp days to more recent summer family reunions.
In the loss of Francis we have all lost a great advocate but he will long be an inspiration to many.
Francis, you are a prince, always have been.
Francis I have things I need to say to people I love...you taught me how important this is to do......now I sit and quietly watch my little boy and I know how fast I will become the old man...I will do it well and I will show him by example...how to live well, how to love well, how to die well...we are all part of a continuum of life's energy and you will soon shift forms again...I know you will be there...that your energy will flow through those of us still here in the physical realm...Francis, I love you, I will work hard at being my best self...I thank you so very much for sharing your life energy with me...thank you Francis, thank you...
Francis, Love radiates from your eyes and smile whenever I see you. You have taught me so much about living and now you are teaching me how to die with dignity, peace, and love.
I always will remember Francis' gentle spirit and quiet sense of humor. He always made me smile and, as a young kid I thought he would be the perfect "big brother" that I never had.
He is at peace and entered the transition escorted by so much love and peace, he'll assist us when the time comes for our transition.
The way you have confronted your illness with deepening spirituality is such an example to us all.
I feel fortunate to have had you in my life. You are so selfless and giving. I always enjoyed our intellectual conversations and appreciate how well informed you are. I will never forget how you always hugged me each time we got together. This is special because most men in our society are reluctant to hug another man. It demonstrates how secure you are in your identity and the love that you have for other people, regardless of their gender. You have such a great sense of humor. ...I love you and thank you for being who you are: a great male role model.
We frequently talk of the wonderful days when we all did yoga together. We can visualize Francis quietly going about his business of helping you, Elaine, in any way he could while being an active participant in class.
Dear Francis, What a treasured friend you have been...what a wonderful priest without borders you are... your very existence has led many to the God you have loved so well. Thank you so much for sharing that last visit with me even when you were already suffering--and yet could listen patiently to my stories, asking discerning questions, and adding your own insights to enrich the narration. You are a good and just man.
I always learned deeply from you, even when there were no words spoken.
I always felt when Francis looked at me he was trying to peer into my soul. While I’m not perfect I never feared what he would find but I was often curious about his thoughts. I felt that he recognized my strengths and didn’t judge me for my weaknesses. I was always amazed at his patience in Yoga. When his body started to give up (his heart n soul never did) he would continue to help you do demos, even though I could see something just wasn’t the same.