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,