. . . which I will be in two days, I am hoping to look back and forward with gratitude and hope. So, today, six things for which I am grateful and, tomorrow, four to which I look forward!
- 1. My parents. I barely remember my mother, but those moments etched into the grooves of my mind confirm that she was a woman open to all, unfailingly generous, and patient with her ever inquisitive and persistent firstborn child. I’ve recorded this before, but one of my favorite memories is one in which I was waiting for her to get off the telephone in the kitchen one afternoon, so that I could ask about a new word I had just overheard. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, what does ‘dammit’ mean?” Definition: “That’s not a word for little girls.” My father, on the other hand, lived until almost his 85th birthday last year. As I prepared for his memorial, I realized that despite his lifetime of disappointments (three wives, one son, one stepson, and one grandson all died before he did) and his rejection of any traditional faith as a possible source of solace (a response I find completely understandable), he was a deeply spiritual man in his passions for nature, canoeing into the back country, and music.
- My education. Each stage offered different gifts, some of them intellectual, but many much broader. A small, rural elementary school. (Cows on the other side of the playground fence). A Catholic convent boarding school. (Vatican II). A demanding New England boarding school. New England colleges. Law school in Cleveland. Jesuit training in spiritual direction. A seminary education in Pittsburgh. If I were younger (and richer), I’d go back for a D.Min.
- My family. A long marriage. Three beautiful, funny, inventive children. Today, the prospect of a daughter-in-law and grandson. More sorrow than anyone should have to swallow, but I guess I learned a few things (all of which I would trade in a nanosecond, along with everything else in my life excepting my surviving children, for one more day with my son).
- Good work to do. It has been my privilege to accompany people through some of the roughest moments in their lives as they have negotiated divorces and custody decisions, to teach students of all ages, to do volunteer work that has mattered ~ in nature and in suicide prevention,and to serve God and, a little bit, the world, through ordained ministry. (I also happen to know how to make GI Joe flashlights on an assembly line, how to serve endless rounds of hamburgers and beer, how to whip a hotel room into shape while watching soap operas (do the bathrooms during the commercials), and how to order and display drugstore cosmetics.) The best thing about every job I have ever held has been the people ~ the ladies in the Hasbro factory, the folks who taught me about birds and about photography, the clients who shared their deepest fears and frustrations with me, the students who taught me about Orthodox Judaism, the parishoners who have welcomed me on even my worst days, and the people who push for health, especially mental health, care, education, legislation, and funding.
- Some reasonable good health. I have been careless and lazy and had some major stumbles along the way (and now, oh, those knees!), but I am grateful for a body which has recovered again and again. On the whole, I can walk a long way, paddle a canoe, and get through the day ~ no small things.
- Nature. The skies and all that swirls through them, the mountains and beaches and lakes and rivers and canyons I’ve seen and those I haven’t, the hikes and paddles I’ve made, the animals and birds (including the ones who’ve lived in my house) who ignore us but make this world so much more than it would be were we here alone. Most especially the owls and the hawks and the gannets. If I have a theme poem, it’s Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese. “The world offers itself to your imagination.”
It turns out that 64 means a lot of life. Not yet “Yours sincerely, wasting away!”