Monday, January 27, 2014

A day I'm starting to hate....

Eight years ago, on January 22, I lost my friend Tee after a battle with breast cancer. And this January 22, I lost my friend Padre after a battle with leukemia. My mind hasn't been fully here since.

For 22 years, he was my friend, my pastor, my boss (for nine of those years), and always a mentor. I've spent many, many times over the last 5 days or so remembering all the funny things, many of which took place within the walls of the parish office, some of which were in the college setting. Many of them revolved around his legendary tight wallet..... and the pliers with which he opened them. I heard today from someone who attended his funeral that one of the jokes in the homily was that Padre was probably one of the few people who still had his First Communion money. 

Oh, and we cannot forget his legendary love for (ahem) "staying in touch"..... quickest way to get the real news of the Diocese was telephone and tell Padre. My coworker and I joked that if 4 priests called within a morning, each asking for Padre, you could absolutely count on some big news going down in the Diocese -- a shakeup, a big resignation or retirement, or (far too often) a death.

He took our Catholic Campus Club on a weekend retreat at one of his former parishes, who graciously opened up the use of the rectory to ten college students. He helped us re-enact a real Seder meal. He generously poured the four cups of wine (per person), and then.... just when we'd had all the fun we could stand -- he conducted a snipe hunt with us. Yeah. Oh, the other kicker: we'd all have to attend the early Mass since they had him scheduled for that one. And it was our only hope of being able to attend and actually have a seat for Mass.

He came to our parish at a time of great pain and guided us through a long, protracted healing process. Some people never forgave him simply for not being Fr. B. I, on the other hand, believed him to be just whom we needed.

Not to say there were times -- especially after I went to work for him -- that we probably could have cage-fought each other. I thought on plenty of occasions my name had morphed into "Dammit Annette Get In Here!" There were days I prayed for the Bishop to move him ANYWHERE and send us ANYONE, which I quickly rescinded and/or modified. Never think God doesn't occasionally say, "Careful what you pray for...."

When he left the parish, I cried buckets. And let me tell you, I did last night at his wake/vigil service. I do not cry pretty. At all. I cry very ugly. Red, squally, drippy, heave-y, sobby, wheezy. Yeah, all the above, right as they rolled that casket by. The only words going through my head were "This is it, Padre. This is goodbye." And it was more than I could take. I was already a mess. This was worse.

I'm still unpacking 22 years of funny stories and good memories. I'll post them too, I promise. But right now, all I can think on, is that I can't stand January 22...... it takes too many good people from me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

More than just a "book club"...

Many years ago -- I cannot remember how many now, it has been so long -- I found a book in a B&N. Bought a copy and laughed so hard I cried. In a couple of places, cried hard until I had to laugh. I told my best friend about it. I went to the web site the author had listed. I saw there was a messageboard. I joined.

The rest is history.

Many of the women (mostly women, a few guys) I have the distinct pleasure of meeting in person. Others I wouldn't know by face if they passed me in the airport, but I know them. Many of us have become very close, like sisters. We have shared laughter, tears, disagreements, complete understandings, passing of parents, siblings, spouses, children...... shared vacations. Triple-dog dares and jelloshots into the nights.

Let me tell you about some of these precious folks: in 2005, when I was debating what the hell to do about a job I was growing to hate, I wrote a note on the messageboard asking for prayers, any constructive advice, any anything that might give me peace of mind. The author herveryownself sent me a personal, private message to remind me that I was going to be fine, that I was in God's hands and so was my situation, and God would not hand me a snake or a stone if I asked for bread. I'll never forget her best words of all to me: "God's asking you to let go of the trinkets in your hands so that you can receive the treasure he has waiting." Prophetess, she was.

The same year, just a few weeks later, after I'd walked from that job with no safety net except the promise that I would be taken care of...... well, two of those precious women made it possible for me to do a getaway weekend to THE big event in Jackson. I needed that weekend more than you could ever know. I needed the time with my girlfriends, to let the world fail to exist for a few short days.

They offered me support and encouragement the next year when I took steps make my life better by finally divesting myself of the excess physical weight I'd carried for years. And they celebrated with me when I lost over half my body weight 3 years later.

And just 2 years ago, they held my hand in wordless vigil over seven agonizing weeks as I waited to see whether or not a dark unknown spot was just a void in film, or something worse. They prayed, they listened silently as I fretted and worked myself into a frenzy and rejoiced heartily with me when nothing was there. Nothing at all.

Book clubs are great. They become friends and they share their lives but I don't know many "book clubs" that have this same deep reach. I may be wrong, but I have yet to see it.

Thank you to my friends Kelly Parker and Tammi Cooper for reminding me of all the good things from that "book club" tonight!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2014: ACTION!

Every year in the last few days of December and the first week or so of January, there's an awful lot of material for reflection and regrouping and looking forward to the next year. Resolutions (which I despise), revolutions (which I love!), and recognition of what worked and what didn't.

At the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, I had already gotten to a place of breakthroughs and reflections on that. So when I read a post by Lissa Rankin about what word I wanted to focus on in 2013, it came pretty easily to me: enlightenment. 2013 certainly was that and more. It was a very crazy year, healthwise. Between February 1 and December 31, I had five sinus infections (and on 1/2 of this year, diagnosed with a SIXTH in less than 365 calendar days). Let's not even discuss the migraines and other headaches. Answers are still forthcoming.

Still, on many other fronts, I learned much about myself and how to get into my life's mission. Many years ago, I figured out that my mission in life is to help people, no matter what. But over the last few years, I felt I had not done that well enough, or at least not in the ways I felt were truly helpful. But this summer, I figured it out, and the idea will not leave me. It sits patiently waiting on me to get my (stuff) together and move forward. Hence, #2014ACTION was inspired. The details are still being ironed out, and yes, I'm still scared crapless. There are so many excuses I could use to stay put: I'm too old, I'm too bogged down, I'm not sure I can afford it, I'm not or I'm too........ But I've always heard that if you know what to do and you don't do it, it's a sin. I think that's finally sunk in, especially with some of the homilies and the writings that my pastor has given lately. He's spoken a lot lately about dreaming big ...... so now, I'm working up the courage to do so.

2014:ACTION is here. Am I ready? I don't know. But I know that not taking action is not an option.