For a year now, I have taken this class next to Leilani, who stands just a little shallower in the pool than I. Today, as we were warming up, one topic led to another. We were talking about getting rid of “things” and she told me a niece had asked for her lighthouse collection, and how was she going to mail them all to her, some of them were almost two feet high?
“Easy-peasy,” I said, “You know those storage tubs people buy at Target? You can use bubble wrap and ship them in those containers. They give fragile items a lot of protection.”
Leilani laughed and said how funny it was she didn’t know that because her husband had been a postman after his retirement from the military.
“Nice!” I said. “Two pensions!”
“Not really,” she said, “The day he retired he came home and handed me divorce papers. He’d been planning this for a long time. ”
“Another girl?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed sadly, “He was greedy. He said ‘You’ll never see a penny of my money.”
“I hope you got a good lawyer” I said.
“I did.” She didn’t look happy. “I had raised the four children, so I got parts of both pensions AND alimony. I don’t need a lot. I was happy.”
I asked if he had been the kind of man who had planned to walk out on her and leave her with nothing, if he had also been mean and stingy during their marriage, and if a part of her found peace when he left. She said because of the four children she would never have left him, but that yes, her life was better when he was no longer there.
“Money doesn’t make a person happy,” she said. “Things don’t make a person happy. You know he went and got a beautiful luxury apartment, and died just a few years later. He had emphysema from smoking all the time. No one to help him. So I went there every day, took him a meal because he couldn’t do for himself. I sat with him at night. I was there when he took his final breath.”
“And you know what he would do while I was out of the room? He would take out his money and count it. It never brought him any happiness.”
My pool friend is one of the sweetest hearted women I have ever met. In all this time, she has never said a bad word about her husband, and she was there by his side as he died. There is no bitterness in her, no anger; she didn’t resent him, she let all those feelings go and did the kind thing for a dying man.
I call this cross-cultural, because she is Hawaiian, and I have seen this kind of serenity in my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances. They are willing to let go of grudges, they are willing to move on. They have generous hearts. I feel like I learned something from her today.
My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.
(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )
These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.
Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.
“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”
So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”
I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.
Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.
From then on, everything was fine.
So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”
My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.
Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?
I grew up stockpiling.
“Winter is coming” is nothing new when you grow up in Alaska. As soon as the catalogs came in, we ordered snowsuits so they would arrive before winter. Being a child, I don’t understand exactly why everything had to be in place before winter struck, but I think it had something to do with shipping channels being unpassable.
It was good preparation for my years of life overseas. Even living in Germany in the 1960’s, there were things we brought with us – shoes, madras, chocolate chips – things we could only get in the USA. As the years went by, and we hauled huge suitcases back and forth from Germany to university and back (the airlines were so much more generous in their luggage policies then), and then, as a young wife, back and forth to our postings in Germany and the Middle East.
I remember one Ramadan in Tunisia, where suddenly, there was no heavy cream. There were no eggs! I learned to buy ahead, to stockpile; it’s been a lifetime habit.
Where is this going, you are asking?
Maybe I’ve been in one place too long. Maybe I am starting to lose my fine edge, my compulsion to be prepared.
I had a group in last week, a group I entertain two or three times a year. It’s not a big deal, I write out my plans, make sure I have what I need, I execute the plan.
Part of the plan, this time, was a large tray full of lunch meats and cheeses, and little buns to make sandwiches. As I was putting out all the food, I found the perfect small crystal bowl for the mayonnaise.
But there was no mayonnaise. Not in my refrigerator. Not in my (well-stocked) pantry. No matter how much I looked, there was no mayonnaise.
I didn’t even have time to be horrified; I had people arriving. I put out mustards, and pickle relish, and butter, and a bowl of sour cream and no one asked about mayonnaise.
Later, I was telling AdventureMan how I’d been caught short. I have a pantry full of sixteen different little jars of mustard, many jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and tomato sauce. If there’s a remote chance I will need something, it is in my pantry. There are times I find myself shopping and thinking “Oh! I always need coffee! (or tea, or chili powder, or chutney or . . . ) and when I get it home, I discover I already have a goodly supply. I don’t NEED more.
But how could I run short of mayonnaise?
AdventureMan just grinned. “It’s a first world problem,” he said.
I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
These are my work shoes from Saturday night. They are brand new, not even a week old. I came to work this morning and saw these in the corner my call room, next to the pile of dirty scrubs.
I had forgotten about them until now. On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings. I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever. In these Rorschach patterns of red I will forever see their faces and the faces of those that gave everything they had in those dark hours.
There is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Some of that work will never end. And while I work I will continue to wear these shoes. And when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office. I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back. I never want to forget that night.
Dr. Joshua Corsa M.D, EMT-P
Orlando Regional Medical Center
Senior Resident, Department of Surgery
Orlando Health Pulse Orlando
Who can help but think of “wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice” as we listen to the daily news?
In today’s readings from the Lectionary, the first reading has to do with one of the earliest manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and this second reading ends with how the glory of God is for everyone, the Jew and also the Greek (of you might add, the American, and also the Moslem, or the Republicans, and also the Democrats), that God shows no partiality.
We all seem to shout “Go God!”, our own particular interpretation of God, and think that only we have it right.
What I do love, is that when a demented one kills in the name of God, the one true God rallies his true followers, whether in Syria, or Orlando, or Paris, or Nairobi, he rallies the hearts of his true followers to love one another, and to show that love by helping and serving one another, brother and sister, people of all colors and all nations and all religions and all sexes. God tells us to love him and to serve one another, and to leave all judgement to Him/Her.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters,* insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.
2Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say,* ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.11For God shows no partiality.
Enter another bible reference:
10 February 2011
Abu Dhabi (CNN)A Dutch woman who has been in jail in Qatar since mid-March after she reported being raped, has been found guilty of “illicit consensual fornication” and being “drunk in a public place.”
Adultery a crime
Today the church remembers St. Ephraim, a very good man, a solid contributor to the early church. At a time when many seem to be in fear that Syrians are coming to our shore, I think a reading about Saint Ephraim is timely. He wrote some of the earliest church hymns. He very likely contributed some of the verbiage in our Nicene creed.
I also smile; I remember my Arabic instructors at the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam, truly gentle women who knew the bible better than I did, and inspired me to know it better in self defense. While they didn’t expect me to cover, i.e. to wear a scarf over my hair, or to wear an abaya, they could point out to me verses in the bible where women are instructed to cover, and they could show me biblical pictures in which the women were cloaked and their hair covered.
They also pointed out the many places in the Bible where praying was done by prostrating oneself face down before God, as Ephraim instructs in the prayer at the bottom of the reading.
I never felt pressured. They were like my Mormon sisters, my Baptist sisters; they only wanted me to have what they had found, the best way to worship.
EPHREM OF EDESSA
DEACON AND HYMN-WRITER (10 JUNE 373)
Ephrem (or Ephren or Ephraim or Ephrain) of Edessa was a teacher, poet, orator, and defender of the Faith. (To English-speakers, the most familiar form of his name will be “Ephraim.” It is the name of the younger son of Joseph, son of Jacob (see Genesis 41:52), and is thus the name of one of the largest of the twelve tribes of Israel.) Edessa (now Urfa), a city in modern Turkey about 100 kilometers from Antioch (now Antakya), was a an early center for the spread of Christian teaching in the East. It is said that in 325 he accompanied his bishop, James of Nisibis, to the Council of Nicea. Certainly his writings are an eloquent defense of the Nicene faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ. He countered the Gnostics’ practice of spreading their message through popular songs by composing Christian songs and hymns of his own, with great effect. He is known to the Syrian church as “the harp of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephrem retired to a cave outside Edessa, where he lived in great simplicity and devoted himself to writing. He frequently went into the city to preach. During a famine in 372-3 he worked distributing food to the hungry, and organizing a sort of ambulance service for the sick. He worked long hours at this, and became exhausted and sick, and so died.
Of his writings there remain 72 hymns, commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, and numerous sermons.
Several hymns are available at:
Among Orthodox he is best known for a fasting prayer:
THE PRAYER OF ST EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of laziness, meddling, self-importance and idle talk. (prostration)
Instead, grace me, Your servant, with the spirit of modesty, humility, patience, and love. (prostration)
Indeed, my Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults, and not condemn my brothers and sisters, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. (prostration)
(Twelve deep bows, saying each time: O God, be gracious to me, a sinner.)
[Translation by Fr James Silver, Drew University; posted on the Orthodox list]
by James Kiefer
I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.
Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.
I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.
The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.
“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”
I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”
She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.