Tuesday, September 3

Waiting in Line

My Granny Goo was 97 when she died. She died last month. She died less than three weeks ago.

She seems so far away.

She was just here.

Can I skip all the details and just tell you how loved she was?

In America, we love our friends and family. We know how to help them out. When someone moves house, has a baby, graduates, goes to college, retires, gets married... we know what to do.

In America, we don't know how to help our friends when they die. How do we help a friend who is doing the ONE thing that we will ALL do? (Yeah, yeah. I've heard that taxes are certain, too.)

I was fortunate enough to have two very dear friends who told me how to help someone who is dying. I don't know if it meant that I was actually helpful to Granny Goo, but their stark honesty... and the kindness with which they shared their wisdom... was invaluable to me. My Granny Goo spent most of her last two days in a handholding squeeze-fest with many various people around her; and I know that my freedom to do that came from those two women who told me what no one else would.

Yesterday, I cried and stuttered out to a friend one of my truths... that I am worried that I won't be given long to grieve. We Americans have no patience to sit vigil with another. We are too scared. I know that soon I will need to dry up my tears and be more socially acceptable. After all, she was a grandmother. She was 97. She had a great life. Nothing is wrong here, nothing is sad... right?

Granny Goo knew about grieving. She knew things I might never know. She was widowed fairly young; she began reaching out to other widows with information and help. She ran widow's support groups and was asked to speak on the subject. She spoke in five states on grief and widowhood during that season of her ministry; of her life.

I have been fortunate in my life; I am forty years old, and I have not sent too many people ahead of me into Eternity. Most of my cast of characters is still around; enacting their roles as they see them, as they have the strength to play them.

Though she had once been a specialist on the subject of grief, in her later years, she was very private with it. I don't really recall her saying how sad she was that Norman or Latina or Gertrude were gone. But she must have been.

She would just tell the sacred stories that we all grew up with. The stories of childhoods... of all our childhoods, even those of us who were already old and dead and gone ahead in line.

Granny Goo lived long years. Her husband left the stage earlier than most. The line of people that she had sent in front of her into Eternity had become long, quite long. I know that she sometimes wondered why she was still alive.

When I think of it, I wonder now if she felt lonely. Like there was a line for a club and she just wasn't let in; though she could see her friends and family smiling and laughing, beckoning through the door. I hate to think of her as outside looking in, but she was. I hate that she might have felt left out.

With her death, I don't know how long I will be "allowed" to grieve, to feel my sadness. Perhaps I will become very private with it.

But with her death, I will begin to tell the sacred stories. The ones of all our childhoods.

And with her death I will begin

waiting in line.

Sunday, September 1

Lord, Bless My Enemies; a Prayer

"Lord, Bless My Enemies"

A Prayer of St. Nikolai of Ochrid

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.
They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life,they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.
But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.


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