Dear Family and Friends,
I want to thank you for your support of me this year, in whatever form it took; your kind concern was not the least. I also pray: May this season bring you deepening joy, whether from the world-shaking gift of Jesus’ birth, and/or the return of light on the Solstice , after the darkest day.
This most difficult year of my life since Francis’ death on Jan 3, though never easy, has also brought its gifts. Whenever people ask how I am, I repeat what a friend said at my 75th Haiti-benefit birthday party in September: “You look as if you’re both grieving and thriving,” and I add my own comment: “They go together. I’m thriving because I’m grieving.”
I’ve survived and thrived through prayer - my indispensable mainstay, - journaling, regular sessions with my spiritual adviser, and since September, -- writing poetry, an unexpected development, (even though I’ve written poems before.) A friend’s gift of poetry books by Donald Hall grieving the death of his wife Jane Kenyon, gave me the idea. Support from family, friends and community has also begun to restore my will to go on living.
It did me good to continue Francis’ and my regular traditions and practices: attending out of town conferences (Dances of Universal Peace, CORPUS, and Call to Action,) participating in Pax Christi meetings, monthly distribution of food at our parish’s pantry, and occasional cultural offerings like local theater. I’m glad I still teach one morning yoga class a week. And I delight in babysitting Rowan every Wednesday from 2:00 pm until after supper when Lynn picks her up.
After fetching her from school, Abigail, Rowan’s neighborhood playmate joins her for all kinds of activities that 6 year olds dream up. To name a few: visiting the chickens, (in summer - picking fruit, watching the frogs) indoor artwork, and always, - reading. Knowing how quickly events slip away with the winds of time, I invite special moments with them to be imprinted in my mind & heart. For example, Rowan sitting on my lap at the computer typing a note (all by herself) asking our neighbor Matt if we could visit. Then, watching them run up the street to see his three big Pyrenee dogs, larger than they are! En route home Rowan yelled to Abigail “Wanna gallop like a horse?” And off they bounded down the street. What delight their contagious joy!
Another indelible moment this week: Rowan sitting on my lap while I read her stories from Free to be You and Me. I laughed right out loud during one story about a girl wanting to join the boy’s baseball team. Then, reading a sad story, -- since my emotions are very close to the surface, -- I wept. So Rowan is learning about grief. An outstanding grief book for children is Waterbugs & Dragonflies by Ruth Stickney.
Christmas will forever be a sacred time for me. Beginning with Christmas Eve, 2009, Francis and I had dialogues in which he shared, in an extraordinary way, his thoughts about his approaching death. I am now rereading (on the corresponding day this year,) everything I wrote last year which is posted. I also plan to listen to the recordings of those conversations, tears or not. I need and want to go through the grief, not bypass it. Then in the new year I will begin writing our story, -- my “God-willing-book.”
I’m reading less but writing more these days. Even so, the title of a book which offers a comprehensive look at how the various religions, east and west, view death, supports my view, -- and more than just my view, -- my conviction:
La Mort Est Une Autre Naissance (Death Is Another Birth,)