Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Elaine's Christmas/Holiday Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings of peace and joy this Christmas - including Solstice, (though it’s past now) ;o) Hanukkah, and Kwanza. (We have Africans in our parish.)

Without downplaying the nostalgia of this season for all who miss loved ones no longer physically present, (and since it was during this season Francis was dying two years ago, it’s doubly nostalgic for me) – still, I say what my “philosopher” father would say: Since we all must die - and Francis’ death was an extraordinarily “good death” - how could I not trust the wisdom behind the events of my life that guides me?

I’m in awe discovering such healing and joy in writing. It even feels like a calling - to tell Francis’ and my story. Just as together we tried to work for peace and justice through our engagement in yoga, the Dances of Universal Peace and permaculture, I have to trust that my new path will be another way. I pray to be faithful.

I celebrate Jesus’ birth and coming because the Love He brought and lived offers - to suffering humanity and our planet with all its creatures (of which we are a part) - the greatest promise. I celebrate Jesus also because during Francis’ and my last earthly exchange, firmly holding each others’ hands - I told him I was now handing him over into Jesus’ hands. I saw in his radiant smile – a man transformed, ready for the next stage of the “Mystery.” Because it was a theme of his, I used his words as the dedication of my soon to be published book of poems: “To Francis who knew how to surrender to Mystery.”

Good health to you and yours in 2012!

Love and always – much Gratitude!


PS I just returned from “Midnight Mass” (which began at 10 PM.) where I was reminded of my papa who sang “Minuit Chretiens” (O Holy Night) as the soloist for many many Christmas Eve’s.

I’ll also never forget either - it was on Christmas Eve (two years ago) that Francis said to me, at the end of our extraordinary dialogue: “Your presence was deeply drawn into my soul, and so, I am very happy.” I will never forget that. (It’s on this blogspot under December 26, called “Sharing our precious dialogue” (because I waited to get his permission before sharing it.)

PPS: I have spent four days rewriting the chapter of how Francis and I fell in love since the discovery of more letters has shed even more light on the subject. What a joyous thing - to be working on the Memoir Love Story!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Counting My Blessings

Dear Family and Friends,

When I awoke this morning (on Francis’ side of the bed) I watched the pale light of a new day gradually brightening outside our bedroom windows.

With this photo (below) sent me yesterday by our longtime photographer friend, Jan Born, I’ve been recalling how proud we all felt two years ago when Francis had summoned the energy to go with me to my cousin George’s and Heidi’s home for Thanksgiving dinner - only one month and 12 days before he died.

With this year’s Thanksgiving in mind, I began to count my blessings. They are not just the poems that came in the last year, nor the CD of my reading them (both of which are now at the publisher’s) . . .But - my blessings are my friends!

I began to think of many of you individually, how each one’s kindness, goodness and uniqueness has gifted me. And - having had dinner with my niece last week, and talked on the phone with Jo, my sister-in-law, last night - this includes family too.

Though I lay there alone, I did not at all feel alone. Even as I wrote this, a frisky chickadee got my attention, and so brought me company - by knocking. I thought for a moment someone was at the glass door near this computer. In trying to get at some chickadee-food, s/he was vigorously pecking at a thick grape vine hanging over the trellis outside.

So I just want you to tell you this - For your unique and supportive relationship with me - each one - I give heartfelt Thanks - giving!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

News Triggered By Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

When I started receiving “Happy Birthday” wishes from friends this morning – even, to my delight, from Francis’ and my friend from the past, Alfred DePew – I wrote a response to post on my “Wall” in Facebook which I rarely use. But it must have been too long, since it wouldn’t “take.” So here it is, now expanded, for all of you. Posted as a link to Facebook ought to work for me this time. It became the trigger to share, sooner than I expected,

this news:

But first of all – (I like to use Francis’ expression) - “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!” for the birthday greetings! After celebrating Lee’s birthday yesterday with Lynn and (godchild) Rowan by going on a whale watch with several of their friends (increasingly becoming my friends) and then later having dinner, cooked by Lee, at their home, I was feted too by my home-made family.

My birthday joy today (76 now) consists in the following: Four days ago, right here in this yoga living room where Francis’ hospice bed sat - with the help of recording engineer, Chris Mega - I read all 60 of the poems which came to me within the past year, (thank you Francis!) This means I will soon deliver to my publisher, David Gawlik, not only the “master” to create the CD of the poetry reading, but the final poetry manuscript for book # 1 –

Sing To Me And I Will Hear You

The Poems

Another bit of news: Because our six sweet chickens began eating their own eggs, I gave them to a permaculture friend who loves chickens. Integrated with her own flock and able to “free range” there on the farm, they’re less likely to eat their own eggs. I miss them, but I’m grateful I won’t have to shovel my path to the coop when snow arrives. This chicken-less hiatus until next April when I’ll get new chicks for Rowan in time for her 8th birthday, will also give me seven months of extra writing time. I’ve already started working on book #2 –

Sing To Me And I Will Hear You

The Memoir.

Full of gratitude and joy.

PS Who left a “singing telegram” on my answering machine? I can’t quite detect the voice behind that lovely birthday greeting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Two Bits of Good News

Dear Family and Friends,

Some of you know that in recent weeks I’ve had bouts with fatigue and other physical symptoms of enough concern for my doctor to have ordered hip Xrays, an EKG and several blood tests, one of which was a Lyme’s Disease test. As a result I had to absent myself from the annual McGillicuddy family reunion in NB Canada.

Aware my symptoms might have been caused by my irregular circadian rhythm, esp. since Francis’ death, as well as the intensity of receiving and working with 60 poems in 41 weeks on the emotional subject dealing with loss of a spouse, I changed my schedule and pace, all of which are restoring my energy.

So when Dr. Katz called me this morning to report on the last two of seven tests, (He was Francis’ doctor first) I wasn’t surprised to hear they confirm I’m in very good health. And I feel it today, energized also by how easily my detailed outline for the Memoir is coming along.

Good news # 2:

Not only are there 55 poems ready for publication (set aside awaiting the completion of the Memoir, the first part) - the one book will also include a CD of my reading the poems.

David, (publisher & friend) loves the idea of the CD, to be sold with or without the book. I told him this idea came from our gifted parish choir director Sue Proulx who took me aside a few months ago urging me to do it. It occurred to her, she said, when her newly widowed friend found consolation listening to this eight minute radio of Carolyn Barnwell interviewing me on my grieving process:

Thank you for your concern about my health. I assured Dr. Katz that writing the Memoir should be less challenging emotionally. My Reader/Copy-editor Mike had called the task of assembling a poet’s final manuscript – “harrowing.” So, even aside from the subject matter, there’s basis among real poets for what this newbie has gone through.

Trusting in your continued prayer for me,


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Francis' words for the title

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Tomorrow - July 3, is the 1 ½ year anniversary of Francis’ death, the date last year, when I wrote “It’s Six Months Ago Today.” I think that’s why, during my daily walk to the cemetery just now, I got the idea of writing again.

You’re likely to think the subject of this email – “Francis’ words for the title” - refers to Francis' story and mine which I told you in my last entry 4 1/2 months ago I was writing.

But my writing partner's mother got seriously ill, and I was more absorbed in the poems that kept coming, and still come, though at a slower pace. So, after six productive meetings during which I did get started on writing our “story,” - to make a long story short, a poetry editor's article in the Mar Apr issue of Poets & Writers led to my getting from April Ossmann, a professional assessment of my poems. Her encouragement and “grading” as “strong,” “medium,” (& the default “weak”) led to the decision to write, not one, but two books – first a poetry collection, and then, our story.

Second result: By now I’m deeply engaged, with the help of a published poet from Washington state, Mike O’Connor (bio & photo there with more to come) who has become my Reader/Copy Editor, in “digging deeper,” as April advised, to revise the “medium” poems. It’s very engrossing, healing, work.

No need to look for a publisher. Our friend David Gawlik's “Caritas Communications” will publish the poetry collection first, and when it's ready - our story. David, like Francis was, is also a married priest as well as a photographer (extraordinaire,) and longtime editor of CORPUS Reports. Even though he lives in Wisconsin, and we saw him only twice a year, he became Francis’ and my dear friend since we started attending annual national CORPUS Conferences in 1990, - and Francis began attending them even in the late 80’s!

My energy has been so wrapped up in this writing - in addition to teaching a yoga class, and babysitting our godchild Rowan weekly, along with other things and gathering with friends – and now the necessary and enjoyable though time-consuming gardening, (not to mention caring for our sweet chickens!) – I have been jealously protecting time to write.

By the way, - Francis’ words for the title are:

Sing To Me And I Will Hear You The Poems

Here below are a few of them:


You Gave Me No Clue January 17, 2011

I’d encounter you

at the annual King celebration *

I wasn’t in grief

- How could I be?

You came to accompany me!

You weren’t left out,

I found that out:

Surrounded at table by friends

who met yearly for this –

between speakers, awards

and the dinner itself –

I sensed in my gladness and laughter

a joy too expansive,

too deep to have come from me


No - I knew it was you

enjoying our friends

by living my life with me.

*Martin Luther King NAACP Dinner

Whoever Heard June 10/15, 2011

a more loving request

of his wife by a dying man

– to accompany you

by singing alone

our love-vow chant

as you passed?

Oh my love, not “request”

but your gift to me.

Whoever heard

an answer like this

when the hospice nurse asked you

"What's holding you back?"

"It's the joy," you said.

Oh Francis, this joy

in our love beyond death

holds me here daily in prayer.

Nothing Can Fill June 19, 2011

this gargantuan gaping

hole of my loss -

except this:

my relief at sparing you

a widower's pain.