A Lifetime of Bearing Fruit

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I found out late last night that one of my roommates from college passed away. In looking through all my old photo albums, I was aware, once again, of those positive influences in my life who helped me overcome my inadequacies, and stood as an example of goodness, truth and such kindness. She stands front and center. I know its common to talk about people who die in celebratory language and images. But Louise was the real deal. She would get teased sometimes by her Pollyanna approach to the world, but she was just, simply, so good. She helped me stay optimistic when my more brooding tendencies would begin to take over. A fellow sojourner on a quest for spiritual enlightenment, she visited a community in Canada to calm her spirit and find some answers, like I did in the desert in New Mexico. She found her soul mate in her husband Tom, a relationship I often used as an archetype of how a man and woman behave in a healthy relationship. I wasn’t always good at social cues, and Louise somehow helped me navigate through the complications of relationships. Even after all this time she continued to be that person who glowed, and that was intrinsically so much better than many of us not just because she was kind, funny and smart, but she moved in the world living a life that reflected her spiritual values and made it seem uncomplicated and effortless…and she never made me feel inferior, never once, even though I believe it to be true, in every sense of the word. Lou was matter of fact about what was necessary to be a modern Catholic Christian. She had her causes and worked tirelessly to bear her own brand of “good fruit.”

She was that friend you could always pick up right where you left off. I was able to talk to her on the phone a few times after she got sick because she lived in another state. The first time, I didn’t even know she was sick, we didn’t talk about that, we just picked up and updated like we usually did. My world was brighter every time we connected, and it is my hope that I made her world brighter too. She was my only friend that continued to write letters long hand as well, waxing philosophically much of the time, continuing to search and grow. They are in my box of letters along with others like my father’s that made me think and grow. She again, was much better at it than I was. I would start but never finish, and end up sending missives separated by long periods of time that had many different sections that were started and then stopped. I regret letting my own ill health often get in the way of reconnecting, but I do feel confident that she knew how much I loved her, even if we didn’t see each other very much.

I have often used Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” in the story of the wood fox, to depict how to make friends or tame people…

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Louise tamed me. She transformed how I learned to see the world. I’m sure through her husband and beautiful children, her friends and family, no one will see the wheat fields in the same way agian. And it is nice to know that there is one more angel in heaven watching over and bringing us light and hope.

You would know the secret of death

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Here is the poem I read at my father’s funeral…I made it almost the whole way through, until the part about dancing…

On Death

Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honor. Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance.

 

I still hear his voice, telling me that the smallest gestures can make the largest impact, to live fearlessly and faithfully. I embrace fully in the dream of building the Kingdom of God, one simple brick at a time. Papa, you taught me that and you showed me that by all the people that showed up to celebrate you…from your students, neighbors, colleagues, family, the diocese, and many friends. Your heart was open wide to the body of Life and from above you still walk with me and all those you love to keep singing and dancing until we meet our King.

Angels in Disguise

holy spiritIn a world where so much goes wrong, it can be easy to wonder where all the heavenly help has gone. You know, you hear all those stories of mystical beings springing out of nowhere to save the day, never to be found again to be thanked, but I wonder…is that the exception for angelic behavior, or the rule? I know Jesus inferred many times that heralded help may not always be what it appears, wolves in sheep’s clothing, thieves in the night. So how do we know? Is it a good standard to escape the pain and difficulty that are almost essential to mastering the game of life? Is it logical to surmise that when things go our way, heaven is behind us and when they don’t we are being punished or plagued by a demon? I say unequivocally, no it isn’t logical…but then again neither is God. That isn’t to say that God can’t behave logically. God just isn’t defined by it. Logic is a human invention to help make sense of life and discover truth. It will never be a primary tool to uncover and understand the divine.

So then, it’s complicated. If heaven is beyond and not limited by our comprehension, how do we know when help is near…and more importantly when it’s not, and we are just being duped into deeper and deeper illusion? That’s when I rely on the teachings of Jesus. I truly believe in the realm of angels, because Jesus did. And while I may not understand all that entails, I do understand Jesus when he described the different kinds of people who would follow his words. ┬áThe parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is a perfect description of those who abide by his teachings: there are those who are more shallow and the words never take hold, those who don’t hold them deep enough and forget the minute things get rough, those whose would use them for their own thorny purpose and choke the life out the message, and finally, those who let them deep into the soul and nurture them till they bear fruit. I always pray that I am of the latter, but time and humility will tell.

That’s how I feel about angels. I am aware that I need a lot of help if I am to nurture this seed of faith that I’ve been given. In hindsight, though, my personal magical moments hardly ever consisted of being swooped up and saved by a heavenly messenger, rather it usually meant knowing I could survive the pain of heaven peeling away the darkness and replacing it something brighter and more pure, whatever the situation. Angels don’t make our lives easier, they help us make it better, and that sometimes means harder. They direct us down a better road, often the least traveled or obvious. They help us defy and ascend logic by demanding faith in that which we cannot yet see, but have been told to be real. Their presence is with us all the time, yet because of free will, requires our permission to assist in sowing the sacred soil of the soul. ┬áThe fruit of which, is to extend an angelic hand to someone else, not necessarily to save, but to serve.