Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deep Time This Year Too, December 21, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Since September 24 I have been rereading the blog entries posted here on the corresponding day this year. I had already decided to set aside the time between Solstice and the date of Francis’ death, January 3, as an overall/not rigid retreat time for myself. (I’ll still go to church, food pantry, join in a Christmas dinner and lead the dances of universal peace New Year’s Eve.) But I want to go deeper into Francis’ journey and mine -- his transition and death.

So what a lovely coincidence to discover: On this date last year the entry was called “Deep Time!” Just what my retreat time beginning tonight, after a small gathering at a friend’s home, was meant to be! So it’s deep time for me again this year! In fact I know Christmas will never be the same for me again.

Last year’s “Deep Time” entry of Dec 21 relates the extraordinary afternoon when Lee and Lynn recorded Francis and me singing together. So I can’t resist copying it here for you, to save you the trouble of digging it out in earlier posts. It reveals Francis’ holy joy.

I thank you all for your kindness! And thank you for keeping me in your prayers.

My Christmas letter is attached below last year’s December 21, 2009 “Deep Time.”

Love, Peace & Joy,

Monday, December 21, 2009 Deep time
Dear Family and Friends,

It could happen sooner or later. No one knows when. But we're told to get ready even though Francis is eating again, and with "some gusto!" -- his words. (That gourmet macrobiotic food prepared by Meg
Wolff and company may prolong his life for all we know!)

As I'll share below, Francis and I also had an extraordinary day yesterday.

Yes, we're in a new phase now. I need to reserve my energies for Francis himself, for preparations for his funeral and for giving all the space needed to experience this precious time together when the veil is thin.

Pam Shay his hospice nurse said people nearing death need time to do deeply personal work. She explained that those who haven't experienced close at hand the process of losing a loved one tend not to understand that the terminally ill find visiting very tiring. Though they can rally for visits and look good, they're exhausted afterwards.

This truth was made obvious to us today: After talking with three members of VNA's Hospice staff, and after a visit with Fr. Mike McGarrigle, 85, a close friend for 50 years, Francis was wiped out for the rest of the day. In fact he's been sleeping since 3:00 pm until he surfaced around 8:00 pm for a little supper.

Pam made an excellent suggestion however, to give friends an avenue without tiring him. Those who want to talk to Francis could send me an email with the Subject line reading:
I will then read him your messages when he's awake and rested. It's likely I won't be able to answer your emails as I would really want to since it would take time away from Francis. But you can reach him this way and I know he would welcome the connection and returns your love.

He's been bed-bound since Friday night the 18th because standing and sitting in a chair are too much of an ordeal for him. Luckily reclining fully is, as it has been all along, a pain free position. Sitting in bed at a 45 degree angle is also okay for a short while.

He's such a sweetheart! In his situation, can you imagine his saying to me tonight after I helped him use the urinal while lying in bed, and then flossed his teeth, -- "This is another wonderful moment, -- sharing the little chores of getting ready for bed. My beloved is preparing me.....You look good, feel good and are good to me."

How can I not love a man like this ?! I met him in 1968 -- 41 years ago. That means I have been in love with this 82 year old man of mine for half his life!

There are many extraordinarily ordinary moments like this throughout the day. One very big one happened yesterday when Lynn and Lee came for their weekly visit. Surprisingly, this visit totally energized Francis, not just in the moment either, -- but for the rest of the day!

While we all ate our favorite Hot & Sour Soup (from Stir Crazy's on Congress St) which Lynn and Lee brought us, we talked about funeral plans, weeping and laughing while Rowan lay sleeping on our bed.

Then Lee went out to buy a microphone and set things up on our computer to record Francis and me singing the entire Lord's Prayer in Aramaic. I can't thank Nicki Piaget enough for this suggestion! Nor can I describe my joy seeing the earnest proud look on Francis' face as his voice got increasingly stronger and surer. My joy increased seeing Lee and Lynn's response to those beautiful middle eastern melodies! As the last note echoed in the room we spontaneously cheered. And the recording caught that joyous burst.

(When Lynn and Lee come tomorrow to talk finances, I'll ask them what it would cost to make lots of copies of this recording to give away after the funeral.)

Well, that mystical moment together didn't get lost on Francis. When I greeted him this morning he was so happy that I grabbed a pen to catch every word.
He said: "This is the deluxe way of getting up! Everything is falling into place! There are lots of wonderful moments! Wonderful, wonderful moments! NOW! They just keep coming! I'm amazed how much energy I had all day yesterday...It was unlike any other day! After two hours I usually cop out. But I was with it all day. I couldn't believe what was going on and on and on into the evening. Then I had a good night's rest."
Oh my God! What a gift to hear him talk like this!!!

I have so much to write about, and will continue sharing this story of Francis' journey sometime in the future. But except for skeleton outlines, detailed updates as I've been writing will have to wait until later, or at least until all the funeral preparations are completed. I want to dig out photos of Francis, and letters, and papers, and artifacts that illustrate the richness of his life.

It's been a life of great integrity. It's something to celebrate! Even as grief creates the numinous time and spaces that deepen the soul.

Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland put it so well in his book which I picked up years ago: How We Die, Reflections on Life's Final Chapter: "In ages past, the hour of death was, insofar as circumstances permitted, seen as a time of spiritual sanctity, and of a last communion with those being left behind....For many this last communion was the focus not only of the sense that a good death was being granted them but of the hope they saw in the existence of God and an afterlife." p. 256


Deep Time this Year Too + Christmas Letter

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,)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

July 3, 2010

It's Six Month Ago Today

Dear Family and Friends,
It's been a challenging day for me today, the 6th month since Francis died. When it feels difficult to take in a full enough satisfying breath, I know it's grief. The body doesn't lie.

But I'm fortunate to have letting go skills: the yoga pose "Savasana" ("corpse pose,") and a method of yogic breathing that invites a longer exhalation (and THAT's what triggers the relaxation response.) But I also did simply nothing this afternoon, -- lounging on a chair on our deck.

What a blessing Francis and I established together, -- this permaculture Eden! The soothing cluck of the chickens just 25' away from the deck to the right, and the sound and sight of the waterfall to the left, and the now green grapes hanging overhead restore me.

So does the presence of children in the neighborhood whom I encourage to come visit the chickens and taste the fruits (strawberries and blueberries and cherries are ripe now, and coming up soon, -- peaches, plums and grapes.) One of them, our neighbor 8 year old Abigail, Rowan's weekly playmate on babysitting day, comes every day to give the chickens greens. And she even likes to go "gold digging," collecting the poop in the run! No, -- I didn't entice her to do that! She WANTED to! It's a task I don't mind either because the hens are so sweet, even if a few of them give each other some pecks now and then. Having enough food and room makes them pretty nonviolent for chickens.

I've gone to two special weekends recently. The first was a June 3-5 retreat at Alcyon Center in Seal Harbor Maine on "Attention of the Heart" given by Cynthia Bourgeault. I went because of two books she wrote, -- Love Is Stronger Than Death and Centering Prayer.

Even though I didn't need a word for it, Cynthia's description of "bi-axial" living fits what has been developing for me since Francis died. I really like the image she frequently quoted from Song of Songs 5:2: "I sleep but my heart is awake."

It reminds me of two other quotes that are my guiding light:
St. John Chrysostom's (which I used on my mother's memorial bookmark, so it's expressed here inclusively:) "S/he whom you love and lose is no longer where s/he was before, s/he is now wherever you are."
And best of all, Jesus' prayer: "Father I wish that where I am they also may be with me (Jn 17:24.) Like Jesus' "Abide in my love," (Jn 15:9,) I see no reason why I can't apply these to Francis' and my continuing relationship. What else does the "Communion of the Saints" mean? And don't we all sing -- "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est," Latin for -- "Where charity and love prevail, there is God." Yes, it's fine that Francis and Jesus get intertwined for me in prayer.

"Be with me where I am" works two ways. Sometimes it feels (in a simple quiet clear knowing) that I'm "there," with him, -- but even more often, Francis is "where I am," supporting me as I go on with my life.

Last weekend's CORPUS Conference outside Dallas was both painful and heartwarming.
Among these married priest friends and wives with whom Francis and I have so much in common, I felt at home. Bless Eileen and John Munroe who came with me along with Sue Ewing who commented that it seemed for me like a meeting with my extended family.

One of those members of CORPUS, John "Jack" Shea, 88 lost his wife just 2 months ago. Realizing at lunch that we had a lot to share, and learning we're both reading Karl Rahner, we agreed to share with each other titles of books on death.

One of the keynote speakers, Jan Phillips, urged us to share our stories: "How did you survive?" she asked. "Express that!" It gave me another incentive to eventually write a book. At first, as many have urged me to do, I was going to publish what I already wrote. But after talking at length with David Gawlik, the editor of CORPUSReports who suggested I "give dimension" to that "history," I have a better sense of what my next step is: simply to continue living through what I'm living, with journaling and prayer and reflection. I'll know when the time is ripe. Not yet.

This tribute to Francis was written by Linda Pinto of New Jersey, a former Franciscan nun, now married to Ralph Pinto. It was printed on the inside cover of our Conference Program, featuring the photo of Francis taken by Kelly Bellis: It made me feel so proud of him!

One of the longtime CORPUS members told me it's actually rare for the CORPUS Conference to dedicated its program to one of its deceased members. It shows what an impact Francis made on them, he said.

Allen Moore who wrote thank-you notes to those who gave donations to CORPUS in honor of Francis put it so well: "We will miss Francis' gentle presence. Francis did not speak out often at these conferences, but when he did, everybody listened because we knew what he said would be meaningful and edifying."

Tribute To Francis A. McGillicuddy

Francis McGillicuddy is a gentle, giant presence in the CORPUS Community.

Born in 1927 in New Brunswick, Canada, Francis was ordained by Richard Cardinal Cushing in Boston in 1958. His priestly ministry evolved from parish work and his focus on social justice took hold during the Vietnam War. His vocation to prophetic witness was born in the early ’70 when he sponsored a young man who won conscientious objector status from the Federal Court in Portland, marking the first time in Main a Catholic could get a CO status.

As with so many others in the CORPUS Community, Francis fell in love with Elaine Beatrice Goulet, an Ursuline nun, and he knew it was of God. It was hoped that their dual vocation to ministry and marriage would be recognized and blessed by the Church. When that hope faded, they married and began the adventure of a lifetime.

Francis’ unconditional embrace of people, no matter from what background, circumstance or persuasion was admirable. He lived each day with gratitude, humility and joy.

Francis and Elaine have been an unassuming, yet powerful presence at each CORPUS Conference. Their recitation of the Aramaic Beatitudes at the Chasta, Minnesota Conference in 2005 still remains a powerful and prayerful memory for all who attended.

His journey back to God was painful and demanding. Each moment of each passing day was viewed as an additional grace for just “being” together.

His memorial card must become our consolation: Love is as strong as death.

We dedicate this CORPUS Conference, In Search of Freedom, to Francis as a tribute and a challenge. We appreciate, embrace and honor this Man of Integrity and the values he embodied. And Love, above all else, Love.


Here's a Rowan story. I abbreviate it since this note is already long enough:

Two days ago, when Rowan passed through the side entrance she patted our Saint Francis statue on the head. Then, en route to choosing a book for me to read to her, she picked up the note she had written on parchment several weeks ago, and, sitting on our bed, read her note aloud:

"I AM SO RILY BADLY SARY THAT PAPA (Obviously she meant Pepere) DIeD. i LOVe HIM SO MUCH THAT I CUD CRI. MeMe LOVeD PAPA SO MuCH. (She meant "pepere," of course. But she calls her faither, Lee, "dada.")

Curling herself up on our bed, she then thrust the same note into my hand asking me to read it aloud also. By then I could hardly talk, but I rallied and read it in a weak voice, tears running down my cheeks while she watched me. Reflecting on this later I realized she wanted to see the tears. It was as if she wanted her own sorrow expressed openly. So I ordered three children's books for her today to help a six year old who misses her "pepere."

Rowan's reading ability is growing by the day! On Thursday after reading the bumper sticker posted on our refrigerator which puzzled her, -- MONEY IS NOT WEALTH, -- I explained that the biggest source of weath is love and FRIENDS.

Love and gratitude for the wealth you give me,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Francis thru others' eyes, 2 photos & Bonhoeffer quote

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
between us.

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.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We Buried Francis' Bones and Planted Francis' Tree

Dear Family and Friends,
Francis didn't hesitate to call things by their names. Because he was cremated, and since "cremains" include many bone shards, it was literally Francis' bones that we buried at the Notre Dame Cemetery in Springvale on Saturday.
Twenty-one of us family and friends gathered there on the Goulet-McGillicuddy plot with our nephew, Rev. Terence Curry, S.J. who had driven from Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA, to lead Francis' internment service. Francis' siblings, Jo (of Houlton) and Lou (of Cape Elizabeth) were there along with Jo's husband Lou Curry. My 90 + year old aunt, my mother's last sibling, was there with my cousin George and another cousin Lillian. All the rest were dear friends.

We sang two hymns both fitting for Francis:
YOU ARE MINE by David Haas
Refrain: Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home: I love you and you are mine.
Verses :
I will come to you in the silence, I will lift you from all your fear. You will hear my voice, I claim you as my choice, be still and know I am here.
I am hope for all who are hopeless, I am eyes for all who long to see. In the shadows of the night, I will be your light, come and rest in me.
I am strength for all the despairing, healing for the ones who dwell in shame. All the blind will see, the lame will all run free, and all will know my name. I...
am the Word that leads all to freedom, I...
am the peace the world cannot give. I will call your name, embracing all your pain, stand up, now walk, and live!
Terry then recited some prayers, including antiphonal prayer (call and response) and I proclaimed this passage which I've always found very compelling from

St.Paul's Letter to the Romans 8:35-36; 37-9:1:
Who shall separate us from the Love of God?
Will anguish or distress, or persecution or hunger?
Or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?
No, in all these things we overcome overwhelmingly
through Him who loved us.
For I am certain of this:
that neither death nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature
will be able to separate us
from the Love of God
made visible in Christ Jesus.

This was our final hymn:
WE ARE CALLED by David Hass
We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.
Come! Live in the light! Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord! We are called to be light for the kingdom, to live in the freedom of the city of God!
Come! Open your heart! Show your mercy to all those in fear! We are called to be hope for hopeless so all hatred and blindness will be no more!
Sing! Sing a new song! Sing of that great day when all will be one! God will reign, and we'll walk with each other as sisters and brothers united in love!

Lynn, Lee and Rowan's presence with us (both Sat and Sun) meant a lot to me. I was heartened to see Rowan singing along with her dad crouched on the grass for her to see the words as he pointed them out. And I was glad the words of the hymn might reassure her. And us.
A good friend called our committal service "suitably simple and completely reflective of the one we were there to honor." Well put. For me there was also a kind of unreality in the reality we were going through. Actually I felt the whole weekend took on this tone.
But both on Saturday when we afterwards moved on to the Oak Street Bistro in Alfred to share a tasty meal, and on Sunday after our tree planting ceremony when we moved on to our joyous community potluck, there was this blending of tears and laughter. I thought it was good, good for us, and good for a child to learn this balance.

The Planting of Our Be-Loved Francis' Tree on Sunday, took place on the front lawn under sunny blue skies. Lynn, Lee and Rowan stood next to me facing our house while a large group of friends fanned out along the lawn, with one on the porch, facing us and the street. Abigail our neighbor's grandchild and Rowan's playmate stood next to her, close to the Rowan Tree behind us (That's literally its name) which for the first time since it was planted in 2007 displayed a large white blossom at its crown! Shawn, our arborist had already dug the hole, and a pile of rich humus sat waiting for the final internment of our living tree which stood as our centerpiece -- Francis' Japanese Stewartia Psudocamellia tree. Now 20' tall, it will slowly but eventually grow to 40' in height and 20' in width.
Before sharing a few details about what Rowan calls the "pepere tree" I reviewed for everyone our simple agenda:
A A few remarks about the tree itself and the intention of the planting;
B My reading of the Roman 8 passage I had read on Saturday;
C Sharing of two poems, one very personal, the second inviting deep thought from all of us;
D Reading of several of many comments about Francis which I will email to everyone.
E Finally, (I told those gathered,) they would have time to speak about what Francis means to them.
F We would then plant our tree and
G Share our potluck on the other side of the house, near the chicken coop and grape trellis. (Tiny little grape clusters are already visible!)

About the Japanese Stewartia Pseudocamellia:
Once its trunk attains a diameter of 2 - 3 inches it features stunning bark that exfoliates in strips of gray, orange, and reddish brown. The serrated foliage changes with the seasons: bronzy purple in spring, dark green by summer and red or orange in the fall. In midsummer its gorgeous white camellia-like flowers open in random succession. Someone said it looks like Francis! -- tall and graceful.

The Intention of this Tree Planting, I explained, is not just to honor Francis' memory. From the beginning I've wanted it to symbolize and express and celebrate love that keeps on growing, -- Francis' love and mine, and the love of all of us. I'm convinced that Francis' love did not stop or get fixated at a certain level when he died, and that he did not pass into a different remote universe from the one in which we live. This ONE mysterious universe in which we all live encompasses both the living and those we call dead. I say "those we call dead" because, as the Catholic liturgy says about people who die: "Life is changed, not taken away."

I then read this Rilke poem and Letter after sharing the Romans 8 reading:

To the Beloved
Extinguish my eyes, I'll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I'll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you., without a mouth I can swear your name.
Break off my arms, I'll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I'll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.
From The Book of Hours II,7

Life's Other Half
"I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it (life's other half) in our love. This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love, which cannot be stopped or constricted. It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and, ultimately, our enemy.
It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself....
What do we know of it?"From Rilke's Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, Epiphany, 1923

The Personal Part
When all this unfolded there were tears and laughter as I was moved to spontaneously share a few "unpublished" personal stories not included here. At one point, when the tears came strong out of my heart, wanting to reassure Rowan that tears are okay, and even healing, I used the expression "agony and ecstasy" and tried to explain in child's language, in the presence of everyone, what these words mean.
But later at the end of the tree planting day, that night when everything had been picked up, sitting in the rich silence in Francis' usual place on our futon, I realized that "ecstasy" is not the apt word. It's not ecstasy but soul satisfaction I get, just sitting. Twice daily. That's where my treasure is. That's where I find the strength to go on.
One of the personal yet "unpublished" things I shared during our tree planting fest, and which I sort of hesitate to share online, is my prayer to Francis. But why not? It's actually a partial list of Francis' unique qualities, those I need to internalize. Since I no longer have access to them through Francis' physical presence, -- a sort of external access, -- I must now access them internally by bringing those qualities into my own self. That way I won't be bereft of the ways in which he balanced me. I will be able to become more fully myself, in Francis. Or, Francis lives in me, as someone wrote she hoped would happen. "Une vie a deux," is the expression that came to me weeks ago.

This is my prayer to Francis so far. It's "a take" on the ancient prayer, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your Love."
"Come darling Francis, fill me with your spirit,
your level headedness and gentle wit,
the wisdom of your patience and presence to the world,
your poetic soul and surrender to Mystery.
Give me courage, and the will to live."
I explained that "presence to the world" refers to Francis' interest in what's going on in the world by his reading The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly etc, etc He also enjoyed going to Starbucks for a cup of coffee to read The Boston Globe. I plan to try doing just that some time.

People's Sharing their comments about Francis
Jaynie Schiff-Verre's explanation -- how Quakers listen and then wait a few breaths before another speaks, to honor what was said and the person who shared it, created a thoughtful atmosphere. But I can't adequately reproduce here now what people shared standing together around our Francis Tree. There was the speaker with her/his emotions and the intonation and the heart. I couldn't do it justice. So I will share the quotes about Francis which I've been gathering together, soon.


Friday, May 21, 2010

I forgot the best part + 2 quotes

Dear Family and Friends,

Before going to bed last night, I looked once more at the tender note Rowan wrote me this afternoon. But this time I realized I had forgotten to relate the best part, -- Rowan's excellent drawing on the other side of the "envelope" depicting a broadly smiling, bearded Francis.

This afternoon she had kept pointing out the drawing, waiting, it seemed, for a response. I had told her: "Oh, yes! Pepere has a beard, and he's really smiling." But it wasn't until last night that I realized I had failed to notice, ( maybe in the emotion of the moment,) the word Rowan had written near Francis' head, encircled in cartoon fashion:

"Hi !" with a clear exclamation point.

In her drawing Francis is saying "Hi !" He's communicating with a broad smile. It's the "Communion of the Saints," one dogma of the church I really appreciate!

Since that reminded me of the article in The New Yorker to which our friend Gloria drew my attention: "Good Grief, Is There A Better Way To Be Bereaved?" by Meghan O'Rourke (Feb 1, 2010) I dug it out then and there and copied this passage:

"Perhaps the most enduring psychiatric idea about grief,...is the idea that people need to 'let go' in order to move on; yet studies have shown that some mourners hold on to a relationship with the deceased with no notable ill effects. In China, mourners regularly speak to dead ancestors, and one study has shown that the bereaved there suffer less long-term distress than bereaved Americans do."

Gloria also sent me an article about Lydia Davis' writing which includes this powerful and pithy poem:

Head, Heart

by Lydia Davis
Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head. Help heart.

So we mourners weep. But we also say "Hi!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rowan story preparing for Burial and Tree Planting

Dear Family and Friends,

In the last few days I have been culling passages from emails and cards to share people's heart-warming comments and some stories about Francis. I plan to read a few at the Tree Planting on Sunday.

I'll send these when I'm finished, but I'm attaching now, at the end of this, another precious Rowan story. You encourage me to continue sharing them. Here is today's:

When Rowan came into our home this afternoon she said to me, "Memere, I wish Pepere could see Bella! I wish he could pet her! "

Bella is Rowan's darling puppy, -- a Golden Doodle -- which she got on her birthday last month. After the party in which I took part as a leader of one of the four groups of Kindergarteners that went on a treasure hunt at Eastern Promenade close to Lynn and Lee and Rowan's home, I returned to drop off some eggs.

All the festivities were over, but there was Rowan sitting on the steps with golden Bella in her arms. I can understand why she would want Francis to see her. Bella, cuddled in her arms gave her face a very soft look that this very active godchild doesn't always reveal. Bright Rowan has a mind of her own, and because of that, the precociousness that yields insights I treasure.

I told that even though Pepere can't pet Bella, because he doesn't have a body as we do anymore, just the same, because he's in the spirit world (the expression she initiated last month) he might possibly see her, somehow.

Then Rowan asked me for a "very good piece of paper" because she wanted to write. So I got her another piece of that slightly wrinkled parchment the art store gave me for her. After she folded it neatly in half, she started writing while I was looking through the condolence cards to cull more comments about Francis. If I looked toward her in the least she told me she didn't want me to peek at what she was writing. But she did ask me how to spell "die." And when I did, she explained she wanted to know how to spell "died," so I spelled that word for her also.

Then when it was finished she gave me her story, and read it to me:

She read the "cover" of this "letter" first:
(The top left had a drawing of a stamp on it.)

For the inside note, she read:

Then partly fighting back tears myself, but also letting myself cry, I told Rowan that it's okay to cry, even that it's good to cry. And it makes us feel better afterwards, I added. And, that our love and the crying go together, I explained. The crying shows how much love we have for Pepere.

So Rowan cried with me by turning her head and covering her eyes as I hugged her.

Then, seeing the cards in a pile on the floor where I sat, she asked me about them. So I explained that I was copying passages to share with people, because they loved Pepere very much.

Then she wanted me to read them to her. So with the two of us sitting on the rug, I opened one after another from the pile of cards I had isolated last night that had comments about Francis in them. She wouldn't let me omit anything but wanted me to read all those notes.

But after 5 or more minutes of reading Hap our contractor and handy-man told us that he had finished fixing the leak in the pond liner, and that if we wanted, we could go outside and empty the bucket full of tadpoles I had brought back from The Children's Center where I picked up Rowan this afternoon.

And so we got up and turned our attention to the frogs in the pond. Rowan delighted on this warm afternoon taking off her shoes and wading in the pond, and trying to touch the frogs.

Earlier while I was reading to her, the trilling frog that had enchanted Francis and me two years ago began to trill. I expressed my awe and told Rowan how Francis and I had opened the glass door so that we could hear all night long this most beautiful sound. Rowan said: "Better than Pepere?" I tried to explain the apples and oranges concept saying that the trilling frog is the very best frog sound I ever heard. And that Francis' voice is also the very best voice sound I ever heard.

When Lee picked up Rowan later and I read him Rowan's note while she played outside with Abigail, our neighbor's grandchild, he told me that Rowan often speaks of Francis.

An additional Rowan story about Francis I forgot to include last month was written while Lynn was telling me about her Easter Vigil dream about Francis. Rowan was eager to hear her dream. But while Lynn related it, and as we talked, Rowan wrote this in the Rowan Journal which I had started to keep in 2006, jotting down some sweet things she used to say, -- the way children do. This is what she wrote then:


On another page she wrote this. But let me explain that Rowan loves pancakes, esp. the maple syrup that goes on them. So I've made those for her each week since she was 17 months old. Francis used to give her her own little jug of maple syrup in which he had measured a generous enough amount (but not so generous that she could drink it as she'd have liked to do.) He did this in response to her request for each pancake!

STOrieS Of MeMe AND PePe

Love and Gratitude,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Specifics for May 22nd Commital/Burial and Tree Planting on May 23rd and Our Closest Friend

Dear Family & Friends,

I have a quote on death for all of you at the end of this post by Rainer Maria Rilke -- called "Our Closest Friend." Those who are NOT coming to either Francis' Committal/Burial or the Tree Planting can therefore just skip the following specifics about these two events and go right for the quote.


Francis' Committal/Burial (on Sat May 22 at the Notre Dame Cemetery in Springvale) at the Oak Street Bistro in Alfred Maine ...............

THE POTLUCK AFTER the planting of the Japanese Stewartia -- our "Be-Loved Francis Tree" -- (on Sun May 23 at our home)


I have to telephone the manager of the Bistro on Friday May 21 to tell him how many people are coming so we can sit together. So please give me your final decision about the lunch by Thursday May 20.
This Lunch in Alfred is where Leedy's used to be, -- at 3 Oak Street (easy to find!)
When I heard they offered promotional discounts, I thought I'd inquire on your behalf, but I learned they do not. However their prices are reasonable. You can check the lunch menu here which should include (but doesn't) the appetizers, etc. included in the brunch menu: http://www.oakstbistro.com/

, -- IF it's easy for you to do, -- could you please tell me what you plan to bring so we'll have a well balanced supper to enjoy together.

If you need directions to get to either place, look at my earlier posts or do a web search, or just ask me.

OUR CLOSEST FRIEND by Rainer Maria Rilke

"...Assume the unity of Life and Death and let it be progressively demonstrated to us. So long as we stand in oppsition to Death we will disfigure it. Believe me, Death is our friend, our closest friend, ...And I do not mean that in the sentimental, romantic sense of distrusting or renouncing life. Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love...Life always says Yes and No simultaneously. Death...is the true Yea-sayer. It stands before eternity and says only: Yes." Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, Epiphany, 1923


Friends around Portland: If any of you have time to help me plant, I'd appreciate it. It's a big challenge to get done by myself what Francis and I accomplished together, esp. right now with projects getting completed, -- like our garage being rebuilt. The solar hot water system just got completed two weeks ago, and it's marvelous!

Loving gratitude to all,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Date Change to Plant Tree + Rowan Story & photo

Dear Family and Friends,

I learned today that June 12 is too late (because of its size etc) to plant the beautiful tree our arborist Shawn Clark and I handpicked today. So, please excuse me, but everything else about the planting of Our Beloved Francis' Tree is the same. Come now, -- not on June 12, -- but on Sunday May 23 at 3:30.

May 23 is the day after Francis' burial/committal, -- an even more fitting day for a tree planting. On Saturday May 22 we will surrender Francis' bones to Mother Earth, and on Sunday May 23 we will be planting his tree, proclaiming love everlasting.

Shawn, (who had strung lights on the Canadian hemlocks directly in front of Francis' hospital bed at Christmas time) drove me this afternoon to an enchanting, beautifully kept tree farm in Ogunquit to pick out our tree. Though I couldn't find info on it through the web (I must be misspelling it,) -- the delicate, tall, elegant flowering tree we chose is a "Stuartian."

Another precious Rowan Story

In early March having read Francis' love letters and reflecting on love that keeps on growing, I was moved to take down from the top of a bookcase, -- my old Liber Usualis. (This is the 2 1/2 " thick book that contains the Gregorian Chants which, since convent days, I still love.) I sang, -- actually re-learned-- the "Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem" -- Translated: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love." And then I placed it for easy access among my books on grief and theology.

Well, -- it didn't take long for 5 year old Rowan to notice it! The first week she just admired the shiny red gilded edges of its pages, but the following week, while she was at the other end of our living room, I heard her mumbling out loud about "the red book." Then I saw that she had picked it up and brought it near her library nook. She had a pencil in hand too (She loves to write!) so I went over to tell her this was not a book to write in, nor even a book with stories in it, but a book to sing from because it had Gregorian Chants in it, -- in Latin!

Then Rowan asked me to sing from it, so I sang that Veni Sancte Spiritus chant and she sort of sang along with me, seeming to enjoy it, judging from her smile and a calm look people often get when hearing chant. When I finished it she asked me to sing a second one, and then a third! I chose "Christus factus est" and "Assumpta Est" for the second and third.

Then Rowan said "Love never dies!" and added that she wanted to write "words about love, -- not a story," she explained, -- "but just words."

So we went over to the desk where she wrote -- by herself -- her words about love, sounding out the words for herself as they do now in kindergarten (unlike using phonics as we did in my day.)

The previous week she had written a story about reptiles, and the week before that, about chickens. When she had read her chicken story to Lee and me later in the kitchen, -- and Lee and I heard that she had put Francis in her story just as surely as if he were around all the time, "Memere and Pepere love their chickens," -- we had looked at each othe, our eyes widened.

Anyway this time, writing her "words about love" she asked me to spell only a few words. This is what she wrote on scrap paper first, and then recopied on some lovely slightly wrinkled donated parchment paper:




Then Rowan said we should sing her words too. So I improvised a melody and she sang it along with me, copying my improvisation. I was so moved I wept and told Rowan that memere was crying for joy. She repeated what she had said the previous week when I was talking with Lynn in the kitchen during our supper, and was crying then too: "Look Mama, memere is crying, but she doesn't look as if she's crying."

After Rowan and Lynn left and the dishes were done, I carefully trimmed the parchment paper and folded that precious composition to fit in the Liber Usualis along with this story. Someday when Rowan inherits this house she'll be able to reread her own "words about love."


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

June 12 - Planting of "Our Beloved Francis Tree"

Dear Family and Friends,

Early after Francis' death I've visualized and planned for a tree planting ceremony, not just in Francis' memory, or in his honor, but to symbolize our love that is stronger than death, (Song of Songs 8:6.) and that keeps on growing. (My view is bolstered by theology. See my reference below* to Elizabeth Johnson's book.)

But when we plant it on June 12, I'll proclaim it's a tree that symbolizes your love too, all of your loves that keep on growing, not only Francis' and mine.

Some of you have told me that you feel close to Francis, that you light a candle or incense for him in your daily prayer, or that he came to you in prayer, or in a dream. One of you said she never felt the presence of someone who had died before, but she does feel Francis' presence. Another referred to "our beloved Francis" in an email yesterday. So I awoke yesterday morning with the idea of calling the tree -- "Our Beloved Francis Tree."

But there's another reason: Among other endearments, Francis and I often called one another "my beloved," especially I, toward the end of his life. So it's not surprising that during my twice daily Sitting Practice (aka Meditation, or Centering Prayer,) the word "beloved" very often comes up.

About a month ago, it suddenly came to me "out of the blue:" The noun "beloved" became the sentence "Be loved ! " Francis was telling me to -- "BE LOVED" !!

There's solid ground for this too: When I was learning how to pray as a young nun, we were told to just sit comfortably, relax, watch our breath slowing down, and, with or without a "Centering Prayer" word (or mantra,) to simply let ourselves be loved by God who IS Love.

I can't tell you how fruitful that one word, now also two words, have become in my life. I share these stories hoping they will give you fruit too.

So, come to our home, 62 Avalon Road, Portland, Maine 04103 on Saturday June 12 to celebrate the planting of "Our Beloved Francis Tree!" Arrive around 3:30 pm for a 4:00 pm tree planting followed by a supper potluck. (Rain day -- Sunday June 13)

By then our grapevines should be in bloom, and our fruit trees producing perhaps tiny cherries, plums and peaches, and the strawberries are likely to be ripe beside our lily-padded, frog inhabited pond with its solar powered waterfall. And we can't leave out our darling, entertaining chickens, running around in their elegant pen!!

I say "our" because it's Francis who helped me put in place the foundation (on our 8,000 sq ft lot) for this Permaculture Eden. Ours is a demonstration site for creating an edible landscape, or an ecological system in suburbia.

But, as our Permaculture Community members do every time we share food, if possible, along with food to share, please bring your own plate, bowl, utensils and cup. I'll provide napkins and yes, extras of everything for those who don't remember, but it would be a help if you did.

I have more Rowan stories to tell, but this email is long enough as is.

As the Buddhists say, -- May all beings be well, may all beings be happy. Peace, Peace, Peace.

Much love and gratitude,

* In her book Friends of God and Prophets, A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of the Saints," Elizabeth Johnson writes that "religious scholars...think that human development is perhaps not frozen at death but that maturity is a continuing possibility." (p. 188) And, -- that "heaven is the symbol of a community of love sharing the life of God. This entails forever exploring the absolute mystery of the Other with new discoveries forever abounding..."(p. 190)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Francis' committal/burial and quote

Dear Family and Friends,

First, -- the quote:
When I went for my colonoscopy this morning (and it went well, even without sedatives,) I brought along a small journal in which I keep poems and passages, half of which I've already memorized, and half that I plan to memorize. I rediscovered there this moving quote from Karl Rahner, the Jesuit who wrote The Theology of Death:

"The great and sad mistake of many people is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain. Where are they? In darkness? Oh no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed on our eyes. O infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent...They are living near us, transfigured...into light, into power, into love."

Now the specifics:

If you would like to carpool to go to Francis' committal/burial on
Saturday May 22 at noon, could you let me know? I'd be happy to coordinate rides.

Could you let me know also -- if you want to join us for lunch at a restaurant ?
I think it would help to know how many are coming, when I try to negotiate the "discount coupons" which the "Oak Street Bistro" offers online. The Bistro in Alfred is not too far from Springvale.

To get directions to the cemetery just do an online search for: Notre Dame Cemetery, Pine Street Springvale, Maine. I easily found it at: http://maps.google.com

But if you don't use an online mapquest, here are the directions: Get onto Main Street in Springvale, (a twin-town of Sanford,) go through the square driving toward Mousam Lake. But take a right onto Mill Street. It's easy to recognize where you take a right onto Mill Street (if you're already on MAIN STREET) because there's a Courthouse on the left, and then the Springvale Library on the left -- right across the street from Mill Street where you would turn right. Then from Mill Street, take a left (the 2nd left I think) onto Pine Street. Drive to the end of Pine Street where you'll see the cemetery.

Thanks for your support, those who said they're coming, and those who'll be with us in spirit.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Date of Francis' Burial + note

Dear Family and Friends,

You're all invited to join us at 12:00 noon for Francis' Burial, (or what they now call "Committal,") at the Notre Dame Cemetery in Springvale Maine, on Saturday, May 22, 2010. Francis' and my nephew Rev. Terrence Curry S.J. who officiated at Francis' funeral in Portland will officiate there as well. And we hope Rev. Richard D Bertrand S.J. will come to participate as appropriate. I'm so grateful Francis' siblings and family in Maine, Josephine & Lou Curry of Houlton and Lou McGillicuddy of Cape Elizabeth and maybe others too, will be present for this brief ceremony!

We'll be going out for lunch afterwards at a local restaurant in Springvale or Sanford, its twin town. Join us for that too.

Absorbing the reality of Francis' death is the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I understand those who say the grief never goes away; one just learns to live with it. In fact, because love is wedded to the grief I wouldn't want it any other way. However, I told a friend last week that my gratitude is beginning to outweigh my grief. It's as if there are two rivers within me, -- the river of grief, and the river of gratitude. And the river of grief is beginning to merge with the deeper river of gratitude.

I'm filled with gratitude for the blessing of so many good friends! One told me recently: "You may be physically alone now, but you are surrounded by a loving community." And what a treasure I have, -- having lived with Francis all these years! And now I can say with confidence, -- my greatest treasure is Francis' supportive, loving presence, -- with me at all times.

There's so much going on interiorly I'm doing a lot of journaling. The grief books have mostly given way to even more helpful theology books: The Theology of Death by Karl Rahner; a book by Marc Oraison, Death - And Then What? who wrote the preface for La Mort Est Une Nouvelle Naissance (tr: Death Is A New Birth;) and the illuminating book I paid $114. to get online (because it's out of print and rare, but I really wanted it!) -- The Mystery of Death by Ladislaus Boros.

The material in these books is buoying my spirit and supporting my journey. When I'm ready, I'd like to share what I'm learning (and likely our story) in some form of written material. Who knows? Maybe it'll be "A Letter to our Godchild Rowan." (She'll turn 6 years old next week.) That's not a bad idea either because Rowan is endearing herself to me on those Thursday afternoons when I pick her up at school until her mother Lynn joins us for supper.

I'm beginning to collect some sweet Rowan stories, e.g. Right in the middle of supper last week, without my having said anything earlier about Francis or about love never dying, Rowan said, (and I quickly grabbed a pen and wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper on the kitchen counter:) "Love is in you. God you will find in your heart. God you will find everywhere you go. God will say 'Sorry' when people die. Got it? That's my idea."

Here's another: Two years ago Francis and I bought a 3' statue of St. Francis of Assisi which we placed outside facing the pond. But during the winter, we placed it in the side entrance, facing the outside, side door. When Rowan first saw it she said: "There's Pepere." (She's right! It looks so much like Francis that our friends who helped make funeral preparations decided to bring it to Francis' wake and funeral.)

Well, two Thursdays ago when Rowan and I walked through the side entrance and saw the statue (which I decided to leave there now to "greet visitors" as they open the door,) Rowan picked up a soft old-fashioned brush and brushed off the statue. Then last Thursday she picked up the brush again and said, while brushing it: "Have you been taking care of Pepere? You've got to use this brush to keep him clean! Do it every day!" I was flabbergasted and delighted.

Later that afternoon when Rowan and I went into the living room, we passed the two large posters of photos of Francis which friends had put together for the wake and funeral reception. (The posters are still there because I plan to add more photos, have them shrink-wrapped and put aside for posterity, -- meaning Rowan.) When I finished putting a big book back on the bookcase near the posters and turned around, I saw Rowan hugging the large picture of Francis centered at the head of the poster. So I said: "Can I have a hug too?" But Rowan said, -- "No, you're in the picture too, so I gave you a hug with Pepere."

Thank you for your prayers dear family and friends. I still need them!

Loving gratitude,

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Month Later & Bill Gregory's Column on Francis' Funeral

Dear Family and Friends,

Stu O'Brien, a member of CORPUS who's in charge of "Member Services" (He himself lost his wife not many years ago) sent me a helpful little book -- Healing After Loss, Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman. I also finished reading a small book Living When A Loved One Has Died by Rabbi Earl Grollman. It was recommended by Linda Hopkins, VNA's Home Health and HOSPICE "Bereavement Coordinator" who came to our home for an hour this week just to talk but also to invite me to the weekly Grief Support Group she's organizing, beginning next Tuesday. I'll go see if it's a good fit.

I also ordered a few other books suggested in Linda's Grief Notes monthly newsletter. It's good to have these resources. I don't need a book to tell me that the loss of a spouse is an "intense anguish." But it is helpful to learn that grief can leave one feeling confused, fragile, unproductive and even with a kind of "cognitive dissonance."

It's also good to be reassured that "Grief takes its time, and for a while it occupies all our time, ...The process will not be cheated. It will take as much time as it needs...Grief will tell me what it needs from me at each step along the way."

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' and coauthor David Kessler' On Grief and Grieving even speak of "The Gift of Grief:" "Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual and psychological journey to healing." Yet, -- "You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will 'learn to live with it.'"

There's been a lot to do since Francis' funeral, -- making changes in legal documents, giving away Francis' clothing, (I'm wearing around the house what loosely fits me of his clothes,) and now taxes are coming up, plus thank you cards I still want and plan to write, etc. etc.

Though I find myself unable to take in much world news except for Haiti, I've begun connecting with some friends. Last Sunday I went to a Portland Symphony Concert (benefit for Haiti,) and plan to go to other PSO Concerts (Webber's and Mozart's Requiem.) I remember how helpful music was for me after my father died. And I also plan to go to a reading performance next Saturday at Woodfords' Congregational Church on Etty Hillesun's An Interrupted Life, written during the Holocaust. Organized by the Portland Conservatory of Music, the performance will be accompanied by a cello.

After tending to necessities, my attention has been drawn, however, to reading what Francis and I wrote to each other over the years: His love letters written in the summer of 1970 when we were physically separated during my summer studies at Providence College after I had left the convent that January of the same 1970; our Marriage Encounter notebooks, http://www.marriage-encounter.org/; and now I want to read Francis' journal written before I met him and my own journals. So I've postponed teaching my Wednesday AM yoga class until April when the spring session begins.

Yes, I'm finding nourishment in our own words. Francis' last words spoken approx 26 hours before he died, are imprinted on my heart: " I feel so good! So good! I don't know which step this is along the way. But whatever step it is, I embrace it. I don't know if it's the earliest step or not, -- no, I don't know, but I embrace it. I do embrace it! Now let me rest."

My consolation lies in Francis' total readiness, even his blissful readiness to pass. He's pain free now, and won't have to experience being a widower!

Although memories give me a stab of pain because they underline our physical absence now, they're also and even more, such rich treasures to cherish! I give thanks to have memories like these.

I'm also consoled realizing the love we shared in this life lives on in both of us, -- and beyond. When Rowan told me spontaneously, and sadly, that she wished pepere hadn't died, I told her that yes, people die, but love never dies. In repeating it more than once -- "Love never dies," adding "Even if all the people die, love never dies,"-- she said it with spirit, as a kind of declaration.

So journeying along with the Caravan of Creation, looking ahead to where my close loved ones have passed, -- my father, my mother, and now my beloved husband Francis, -- I'm aware of the younger generation coming behind me and mine.

I'm told (in one of the Meditations:) "In the process of grief, our task is to be attentive when the messages of mind and memory come." Some of those messages seem to be coming for me through Francis' letters. His words about our physical separation in the past apply to me now, in his physical absence of another kind. Even more, I sense, his reflections and my own journals may be giving me understanding and context for the life I will go on living.

I have so much gratitude for your loving support, dear family members and friends. I thank you from my heart for your prayers/good vibes which I need and on which I very much depend.

PS -- I learned that the national CORPUS http://www.corpus.org/ Conference will be dedicated to Francis this year. This is an annual Conference that Francis and I have planned never to miss. It's at several of these that Francis and I have prayed/chanted during the liturgy the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes -- in Aramaic. It'll be held in Fort Worth Texas, near Dallas, in June, and of course I plan to attend.


Affirmation from a life well lived
January 30, 2010
REFLECTIONS is a column written by members of Maine's faith-based community. Opinions expressed in the column reflect the author's view and not necessarily that of the newspaper.
Perhaps you know the experience of being part of something grand in spirit that both affirms and challenges your particular faith persuasion. The involvement acquaints you again with the heart of things, stretches your imagination of what is good and possible. I love it when it happens, and it happened to me again this winter.
Francis McGillicuddy was a good friend – not a close friend until his last weeks, but a good friend. His story is bigger than I can tell in these few words. Let it suffice to say that Francis was a lovely man, a gentle man, a strong and compassionate man in heart and spirit, a courageous man who stood quietly but clearly for moral values in the tradition of Jesus.
Francis was a man who loved Jesus and Elaine McGillicuddy. Francis was a practicing priest and Elaine was a nun when they met, when they fell in love, when their integrity and understanding of faithfulness led them out of their respective orders and vows into new ones.
I met them both in a class on poetry of the soul. Later, we met on Wednesdays at Monument Square.
Many of us shared a common need to stand as we could for what we believed in. Francis and Elaine and my wife, Nancy, and I and many others – Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, humanist, gay, straight, homeless, refugee, whatever – those who shared the joy and harassment of demonstrating for justice and peace experienced the spirit I spoke of above. It was a genuine ecumenism, oneness.
Now that is a $64 word, "ecumenism." It comes from the Greek word "oikoumenikos," meaning "of or from the whole world." The emphasis in the word is on wholeness. In Christian circles, it is the name given to a movement to overcome the divisions of denominations.
Experiencing ecumenism is an experience of common calling from a voice that speaks to each of our hearts. It is not an idea as much as an inspiration. It is a sense of being connected to and working together for something greater than the individual parts, for the whole of humanity, for the whole earth. It is an experience of the Spirit.
This Spirit is larger than any of us and all of our churches. When the faithful follow where it leads, they are introduced to a oneness with humanity and a connection of compassion with one another and all beings. It is a oneness inspired and served by love.
Francis and Elaine and those of us gathered with them at Monument Square for a year and a half experienced oikoumenikos, felt something of being a part of one world, one family, justice and kindness for all flowing from the Spirit that had called us there and bonded us. Francis was at home there. Those who knew Francis knew him as the embodiment of a faithful follower of love.
He died from cancer on Jan. 3. From the day he heard the diagnosis to the day he died, he strove to live every moment of his breathing, every experience of his journey.
A vignette here to make the point: Caring for the terminally ill can focus us on the question of when and how death will come. Francis understood this and appreciated his caregiver's attention to it, attention he shared to some degree.
But more than that, he wanted to share and be present for the time he still had. His counsel to our preoccupation with the end came in these words to Elaine, "Let's take it as it comes." He was lovingly alive in this world to his last breath.
His wake and funeral were held at Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Church in Portland. Both overflowed with people touched by his spirit, by the Spirit. Being a Protestant, I felt clumsy in the Roman Catholic liturgy but not out of place in my faith.
But we, Protestant and Catholic, haven't found our way to oikoumenikos yet. The doors were opened to all who wished to attend, but Communion was not. Clearly, the dominant spirit of that place and time was welcoming, yet at the same time, a spirit that felt less welcoming kept some Christians from the table.
I have no doubt that if Francis had been serving the bread and wine, he would have brought them to me.
I and every church I have served and know have clay feet. This was acknowledged in the eulogy. It celebrated Francis' life and spirit but also lamented clergy sexual abuse. As a new priest, Francis had been taken advantage of sexually by an older priest mentor.
Francis, a child of the church, was ahead of his institution at the end of his life. Maybe that is always the way it is. Our organized churches inspire their people with the vision of the justice, the courage and kindness of Jesus – a vision the churches have more difficulty fulfilling than many of the individual people they nurture.
Francis embodied the spirit of grace, of forgiveness, kindness, justice, of deep gratitude, of humility and joy in God's love, which is evidence of the Spirit. It was nurtured in Francis by many, including his church, for which I am grateful. In the spirit of oikoumenikos, I call members of his church my brothers and sisters.
The room set aside for his wake was far from large enough for the numbers who came. The beautiful sanctuary at Sacred Heart/St. Dominic was filled with people, even more with Spirit. It was not because he was a celebrity or a public man. I think it was because our world is hungry for people who believe in and live for love and stand unequivocally for moral values.
What will be said of us when our time comes? May in some degree it be said that in our time, we were faithful to our spiritual roots and that our highest branches reached to the light, the moral values, the hope, the dream empowered by and evidence of the Spirit of love for the whole oikoumenikos.
Copyright © 2010 MaineToday Media, Inc.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My next step

Dear Family and Friends,

Those of you who were at the reception at the end heard me speak spontaneously, qualifying our friend's comment that Francis and I were "always together." That's certainly true in its deepest sense, and even true in its widest sense: We did in fact do almost everything together, peacework, yoga, dances of universal peace (DUP,) permaculture, -- yes, all of it together. But, not totally.

Francis regularly protested the building of nuclear warships at Bath Ironworks whereas I went once. And although he regularly accompanied and joined me in leading the DUP when invited to do so out of town or at Conferences, he did not come to my monthly circle of DUP but only joined me in Portland on special occasions, like New Year's Eve, or at guest retreats.

Francis was very much his own person. One thing he loved to do in which I did not participate, was to go to Starbucks five days a week, drink a cup of coffee and read The Boston Globe. He loved to observe people.

At the funeral reception, toward the end, I rambled on like this with mike in hand.

But what I want to add now is what I shared before handing over the mike: I feel drawn to do what Francis told me his sitting practice was all about: "Be still and see that I am God." (Psalm 46:2) I added that I liked the play on words someone came up with: "Be still and see that I am God." "Be still and see." "Be still." "Be." That's what I need and want -- to restore my physical stamina through more rest, and to just slow down. A lot. So I can just be.

As I told a friend yesterday, "Yes, I could genuinely use your help in a few practical areas, but "Once those things are done I very much look forward to time alone, time to just do nothing. I need and want to have nothing to do, nothing scheduled." I want to enjoy doing daily chores in the silence I find very rich right now, especially since the loss of Francis' physical presence is making my heart flip more often. I need to let penetrate what happened, even while I'm going through the mail, and through our closets to give away Francis' clothing. And, taking care of the chickens too.

More than one of you asked me to "Keep writing." Perhaps I will, but right now I'm not sure how my "Be"ing will develop. As I told those who were still in the church hall, I've developed a keen awareness how easily ego slips in for self-aggrandizement's sake. It can be even more subtly insinuated when publicly doing "spiritual" things. So I'm quite wary of parading myself as a model of how to deal with grief. If I did continue writing it would have to emerge from the same kind of compelling call to do so that writing Francis' story did. It's always been that way for me. I cannot write letters to the editor at will. I have to be moved to write.
But there's something else too: I'm sensing that if I were to write about my journey of adjusting to life without Francis' physical presence, it would feel like an externalizing of something too deep for words. In fact I've experienced how the very act of trying to put experience into words can objectify and therefore diminish the depth of that experience by making it a thing separate from myself.

In other words, I sense that words, even honest words that come authentically from the heart trying to capture and remember an experience, can also somehow remove the writer from the very experience she is trying to communicate.

As I said, it was different writing Francis' story because the words as well as the details surrounding what he/we said and did were simply relating the observable facts. I intuited that later on, in pondering those cherished words of his, the memory itself could be prayer, memory itself could even become new, fresh experience in the moment of connecting with Francis. In that case the words and details would be sort of sacramental, vehicles of new exerience. I don't know if this makes any sense, but it's close to what I'm trying to say.

I want time to reread The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying which I read after my mother died, and I want to read poetry. After memorizing Shakespeare's Sonnet # 116 "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments" for Francis' 75th birthday, I found great pleasure and strength in memorizing other special sonnets of Shakespeare, -- like Sonnet # 29 "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes..." and the most poignant one of all, which has been at the backdrop of my heart ever since, is Shakespeare's Sonnet #86" "That time of year thou mayest in me behold..." These are only three of several others that nourished me. But the most nourishing one of all is Psalm 139, in French. I'm attaching it in case you're interested.
I'm not going to isolate myself from people, however, realizing that could be unhealthy. I'll begin babysitting Rowan again on Thursday of this week, something I feel ready to do. And I'm likely to see the generous people still spoiling me with a daily meal. I also plan to call on some people as needed to help me with a lot of things that must still be done, e.g. right now I'm waiting to get through to a live person at the Social Security office!
But since my body is tired and needs a lot of rest, just on the physical level I don't feel ready to teach my Wednesday morning yoga class this month. Maybe next month.

My point is, I'll know as time unfolds what to do next. Years ago Alan Eccleston a Quaker friend from western MA shared with Francis and me a wise saying from a Quaker saint...Was it John Woolman? -- that we have only enough light to see the next step.

How good that I see what my next step is: A very large space in which to just be! Then, from there, I'll have the light to see what that other next step is.

I thank you ahead of time from deep in my heart for your prayers and good energy sent my way. I really depend on those!
Maybe I will miss writing this blogspot and return sooner rather than later. But I have to go into that very large space first. Or deep down.


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Wake and Funeral, & Memorabilia to Share

Dear Family and Friends,
and also lotsahelpinghands friends,

The Wake and Funeral
I want to thank all of you from my heart (and Francis' too) for your presence (bodily or spiritually) at his Friday evening wake and Saturday morning funeral on January 9. Lynn told me 200 people signed the guest book on Friday night, and Lori Arsenault who led the music for the funeral told me the church was more than 2/3 full. Another person said -- "not packed, but full." The church seats 500 people.

This outpouring of affection for Francis from family and friends from Maine and out of state created a spirit of community I cannot describe. Three married priests (like Francis) were ushers, Fr. Terry, Francis' nephew who's a Jesuit, was the main celebrant along with five other priests, one a priest/friend for 50 years. Our friends Joe Brannigan and Sue Ewing read respectively the Isaiah and Romans scripture passages "as something alive and active... like a double edged sword." as Heb 4:12 calls it. One of my very favorite quotes is in that Romans passage: "From the beginning until now the entire Creation is groaning with one great act of giving birth." Sue Ewing read it to perfection.

Fr. Richard's homily focusing rightly on our need to be ready and "awake," ended on a warm personal note since he's known Francis and me for 12 years. Bill Gregory's comments briefing participants on how helpful our singing "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" was for Francis touched many. And while Mike Sweatt's eulogy was delivered with refreshing honesty and passion, John Hines' two stories in his Tribute to Francis were revealing of Francis and heartwarming.

More than one person told me the whole funeral was "very moving," and the "best funeral" they'd ever been to.

I regret however that the great numbers of people at the three events, wake, funeral and reception, made it difficult for some, especially for two friends who deal with physical handicaps.

The Thank Yous

I want to thank ALL who gave Francis and me invaluable help, big and small, and prayer is not small. You helped us in many many different ways, unique to each, e.g. Kathy's lending Francis her little red bucket for stomach upsets earlier on, and Marion's giving us candles to light. One is burning now as I write to honor Francis' presence with me. I thank you all, and Marion for teaching me this.

You supported us with errands and tasks of all kinds, including meals since early autumn. Special thanks to Meg Wolff whose December meals I am certain extended Francis' life. And the January meals she organized with volunteers are enabling me to set aside rest time even as I see through to their conclusion a host of things to get done. So thank you friends on the "Meal Brigade" as I called it three months ago.

There were "lotsahelpinghands," preparing for every angle of Francis' funeral too. Lynn oversaw the whole thing with me along with a spontaneously formed committee which did both planning, and, after consultation with Fr. Richard, the work of set up and cleanup at church along with friends of theirs and ours. Thank you all whom I didn't name!

The Memorabilia to Share

Rowan's dad & mom Lee Slater and Lynn Kuzma made a CD of Francis' and my singing "Set me as a seal upon your heart" and Francis' favorite Beatitude as well as The Lord's Prayer, -- both in Aramaic. (This "Prelude" was played on the intercom at the funeral.) Computer expert Greg Born then posted this music onto YouTube as accompaniment to photos his wife Jan Born took during the reception after the funeral.

Here's the URL for those photos and chants: (Just copy it in your browser)


Then after two other crews of friends dug out photographs of Francis, Sally Waite and Deb Paley used them to make posters and Matt Power, Editor of Liberty News TV, using different photos, organized them into a DVD slide show shown on Fri & Sat.

Here's the URL for the slide show: http://www.youtube.com/user/LibertyLover#p/u/0/a9iw5X6Zr_o


At the wake and reception the slideshow was viewed alongside a separate yoga video given us by Channel 13. In it Francis was my yoga student for a 3 minute live TV demonstration of one yoga pose a month. Matt had "looped together" many of the 3 minute segments. It's such fun watching Francis, looking so young and strong at 73 in 2000 doing yoga on TV! (This material however, belongs to Channel 13 so I don't feel free, nor is there need, to post it.)

But I am attaching to this email the beautiful liturgy program Lynn did a fantastic job designing and formatting. Jan Born who took many of the photos in the slideshow also took three of the four photos used in the liturgy program. My favorite shows Francis and me beaming as we stood in front of our garage at the end of a joyous permaculture workparty in July, 2007 during which 15 people had put in the pondliner and set up the hoop house for off season gardening. Celebrating with a potluck a job well done, -- but especially, celebrating the JOYS OF COMMUNITY, -- we had reason to beam.

Here's another thing, thanks to Nicki: the link to comments by people who read the Portland Press Herald:

At the urging of many people, I also intend after a respite, to turn my record of Francis' last journey in www.elaineandfrancis.blogspot.com into a book.

I'll end with two special emails I was given permission to share:

A An Email
Dear Elaine,

While you might be a bit too young, Francis would've recalled the Weavers folk group, featuring Pete Seegar, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hayes. One of the Weavers' many great numbers was a rousing "Wasn't That a Time!"

"Wasn't That a Time!" could be an apt description of that memorable, absolutely marvelous send-off yesterday for dear Francis.

In the past, I made myself available to lector at the Cathedral for funeral liturgies for someone in her/his 80's, someone the pastor knew had few remaining contemporaries, resulting in only a handful of mourners in attendance -- and none up to doing the readings.

By magnificent contrast, look at that SRO crowd that came to pay their respects to your 82-year-old charmer! It demonstrated, didn't it, Elaine, not just how many people Francis and you have touched through the years. Moreover, it showed their wide generational (and walk-of-life) span.

Neither a blustery January day nor S.H.'s notoriously steep flight of steps was going to discourage anyone from being part of this special occasion.

To know Francis was to love him. And who knew him better or loved him more than you? You again showed that yesterday, as you have through the years -- and particularly through these recent months.

Francis is smiling that sweet smile of his eternally.


B John Hines' poem
(John gave his Tribute from the sanctuary during the funeral.)

Give it up
In Mexico in Cuernavaca
After a day of peddling his rainbow cargo of pretty globos—
Children’s balloons—
The tired old vendor lets them go
Gives the remnants up to the winds
Abandons his balloons to the dying breath of the day
Purple yellow blue smiling faces in the sky
Peddler’s failures
A day’s history
Hope and pretty memories fading
The color of this metaphor touches us

Walk everyday into the streets
Offer your balloons for sale
Risk it
Some will reject you
So what
Your balloons are not for everyone
But they are
At the end of the day
You must let them go
With smiles in the sky for everyone
You abandon the day lived

My friend has died
A beautiful death
He gave up his glorious balloons with grace
As he would with a smile with a song
He showed us the way
He gave it all up with abandon

Thank you both dear friends for allowing me to share these.

Death is the experience of a lifetime

Dear Family and Friends,
I wanted to share this email with you before the funeral, but I was too engaged interacting with others who executed so well our plans for Francis' funeral.

I'll add my post about our Washing and Oiling Francis' body -- after Halima's note here on that subject:

From: Halima Sussman
Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2009 11:57 AM
To: Elaine & Francis McGillicuddy

Subject: Death is the experience of a lifetime!

Dear Elaine and Francis

We are so touched by the reality of your love in action....................
Elaine - We send you our love and support. In so many parts of the world it is completely natural to stay with, wash, and prepare the body of someone we love who has died. It IS part of a midwivery process. And can be a part of what I call good dying. Good and healing for everyone.
When my parents died, I washed and cared for their bodies at home. We sat with each of them until it felt right and finished. hours. No reason to rush anything. It pleased me greatly that they were only touched by people who loved them, and that I could be present for the slow separation of body and spirit, cooling of body.

It felt like one more gift of life. 'Naked I come from my mothers womb, and naked I return therein.' It was enormously healing for me and my family. I still feel it all these years later. There is a real sense of passage that is integrating to experience and witness.
The veil between birth, life and death is one of the great mysteries. We ALL travel this path. As a good friend puts it, Death is the experience of a lifetime! With another friend, we sang her on her way out of her body. Quite an amazing experience of accompanying. Midwifery is an apt description.

All love and power to you both. If there is anyway we can be of support, (beyond our love and prayers) let us know. love and love and love,
Halima and Abraham

Elaine speaking now:

I was very encouraged by Halima's note even though it was written after my own clear decision to wash and anoint Francis' body with oil after he died. Francis also was encouraged knowing who the close friends were whom I had called ahead of time to be with me.

If you remember, there was a "nor'easter" that Saturday night of January 2. But the three people who arrived to join our niece, Jane McGillicuddy and me nevertheless were able to get out (Some couldn't) and brave the storm: Dr. Ann Lemire took a taxi, Bridget Franciose a certified Hospice nurse who had taken care of my mother when she died (and Bridget had never forgotten the daily scripture quotes I had sent to her mother as she approached death,) ...well, Bridget simply drove out, as did Barbara DeCoste, a friend of Francis' before I even knew him. So there was one doctor and three nurses with me. (The Hospice Social Worker Annie Blanchard had told me it's a good idea to have someone experienced.)

I was pleased to hear these medical professionals marveling at the excellent condition of Francis' skin and muscles, -- for a man who had been lying in bed almost all of the last four months.

This confirmed for me the importance of massaging and moving the limbs of a bedridden loved one. I told them about the massages Carolyn Ehringhaus had given Francis which so helped him he had surprised both of us by saying "This feels so good!" on a day when he had surfaced only a handful of times to speak. (That was on January 1, really only one day before his death, since he died at 1:25 AM on Sunday January 3.)

When I reported this amazement of our friends to Carolyn she responded: "Thank you for telling me this. I was also very pleased to see that Francis’ skin was responding, as on my first visit I feared bedsores (looked like the process had begun) but by the third I did not see this evidence. (In addition, Francis seemed to be able to use the body work for more internal purposes; that was another aspect of my third visit, feeling these deep internal shifts.)" Thank YOU dear Carolyn!

The date of death reminds me to tell you this story (by way of digression:) Francis had joked about wanting to hang on until his Social Security check arrived on January 3rd. Lynn had observed Francis and Lee bonding over this point. In fact Lynn told me when she shared the news of Francis' death with Lee, he said: "Did he make it?" Yes, indeed we think Francis had deliberately held on until I was assured of that check which would help pay for his funeral.

Of course we also heard him say earlier -- and I love to repeat his response to my question "What's holding you here?" -- "The joy is holding me," he had said. Not just the SS check, but the joy, -- the joy of good food, good music as we reminisced about special moments in our lives since we met in 1968. I believe it also gave him joy to share his journey as death approached.

We put Francis' body in a soft fuzzy thick single bed fitted sheet. This "shroud" was pale green, the color of new life. Before we put the top sheet over the bottom one, with Francis body enclosed in it, someone said his shroud looked like a crysallis, one of the life stages of some insects -- butterflies -- undergoing transformation. Chysallis is a very apt image here because it's Francis who chose Michael Dwinell's quote for his memorial bookmark. I'm attaching it as sent to the printer. Those attending the funeral got a final copy with photo, but I have extras at home for any who would like a bookmark.

While awaiting the funeral home personnel who had to shovel a path to our house, we four talked long time into the night, before and after they arrived.

I heartily agree with Halima that our ritual of reverently washing and anointing Francis' body was as healing for us who survive as it was reassuring for Francis who knew ahead of time it was loved ones who reverently handed over his body for cremation, not strangers.