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:

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,