Tag Archives: compassion

“This is an ex-parrot”, Hippocrates and Cancer

There are words received via text that shatter your heart.  Sent from a friend during their latest round of chemotherapy more than 5100 miles and multiple time zones away these are debilitating words. #notadamnthingIcando words. I respond to each line of text, being present without being physically there. In truth, it feels beyond inadequate. I want to jump on a plane and just sit next to him while he has these poisons dripped into his body via a port in his chest – and not only does he not want that, but I can’t. I scan hundreds of YouTube videos and send these as a possible lightening of spirit parrotor at least distraction but he can’t watch them because the noise in the room where he sits with other cancer patients is loud. Very loud. A man sitting someplace behind my friend was evidently screaming from the pain of his infusion for hours. The time before last a woman was bitching non-stop, unnerving everyone around her and especially her family.  (He survives this assault to the psyche earning platitudes from the son for his ability to crack jokes, and generally lighten the environment of suffering around him.)

The last time I was (physically) present to a chemotherapy session was more than sixteen years ago; the brother of my best friend, the uncle to her children, the husband of another dear friend and dad of three kids the youngest of whom was a toddler at the time, brother to another brother, uncle to his three kids, son, friend, et al. I haven’t been in the Beverly Hills Cancer Center (BHCC) to witness first-hand what I perceive as being the antithesis to luxury on which so much of Beverly Hills reputation rests but I was present at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Strong Memorial (Rochester, NY) and the contrast between the two care environments couldn’t be clearer to me.  Sixteen years ago Mike was surrounded by family and friends, shifts of love floating in and out of the room like sunbeams streaming through clouds, there was raucous camaraderie (he being a former Major League Baseball player, the baseball coach of the local Jesuit high school, a widely and much-beloved friend) and I recall at least six people being in the (memory driven) seemingly private room besides myself and Mike.  I could not tell you why I was there.  As Jeffrey describes it BHCC is a ‘factory’, 12 reclining chairs crammed into a single visually sterile room with half walls separating patients, everything everyone says can be heard by every other person in the room, all the bitchingmoaningandcomplaining, the comings and goings of the staff and their commentary.

I didn’t think of this last night as I responded to the texts, but I had two vastly different dreams about those treatment rooms after I went to bed. And it strikes me that the experiences of these two men hang not simply on the distance of years and geography but also insurance coverage.  Mike had robust private insurance and friends and family offsetting some of the costs, my friend Jeffrey was ‘covered’ by Molina Health as part of its participation in an Affordable Care Act Exchange.

The other component is two decades ago, regardless of the circumstances, we were as a nation and as individuals more compassionate toward one another.  That compassion manifest in Rochester in an environment that was calmer and more conducive to healing. The perception of Beverly Hills Cancer Center I have gained through my texts and conversations with Jeffrey reflects an odd dichotomy, on occasion extraordinary but all too often disconnected from the very compassion which Hippocrates advocated and swore to uphold. His first oncologist failed to speak a single word to him in the first nine hippocratesweeks after his diagnosis. His current oncologist, though certainly mending Jeffrey’s body and on a scale, infinitely more attentive, had the most outrageous response imaginable to Jeffrey expressing that he didn’t like the smell of his own burning flesh from the cauterizing knife used to install the port (replacing the defunct PICC line). My head is still reeling from the quote in the text I received on Thursday night.  Compassion. Seriously. Lacking. (Say nothing rather than do harm.)

It pains my heart, my psyche and every aspect of my humanity that Jeffrey’s experience is a mere glimpse into a state of being under-insured in the United States. That “the haves”, those with robust private insurance, and the “have-nots” relying upon a broken system commandeered by shareholder value are somehow less human, less entitled to care and more inclined to be denied basic human dignity, less likely to be approved for the very treatments that they need to get healthy despite paying the disproportionate percentages of their wages to have insurance.

Let’s be clear, as of 1 September my friend Jeffrey is no longer insured by Molina Health, his Screen Actors Guild Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage went live at 12:01 AM. I think about something one of his doctors said about Molina Health’s consistent position to deny coverage first and then if the patient gets loud about it, or the doctor treating chooses to advocate on behalf of the patient, then approve and eventually pay out. This seems like a path to protecting golden parachutes and seven figure salaries and double or triple digit earnings; to me, this seems more like a Ponzi scheme than health insurance. This strips the humanity from Molina Health’s employees and isn’t a terribly efficient manner of running a company given the human resource cycles of answering phones and ensuing paperwork.

Societies have always been measured by how they care for their most vulnerable citizens, it’s clear we are failing. The three hundred year expansion, supreme dominion, the subsequent decline of the Roman Empire and the resulting Dark Ages seem as though they could be minor in contrast to whom we are becoming.  Maybe a tiny private room for receiving chemotherapy is insignificant in the grand scheme of things but the dignity such affords seems as important to healing illness as putting the ‘civil’ back in service.

This is the fourth instalment in my series on having cancer in America.

 

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 
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This is “Matt”. Matt is Every Single One of Us.

Jeff

This is “Matt”. Matt is the guy down the street whose kid plays Little League with yours.  He is courteous and helpful.  So, of course, he works at getting your ‘shades of blue’ reconciled in the paint department at Lowe’s.  Matt could be your neighbor, or you.  The truth is that Matt is every single one of us.  “Matt” is actually my friend Jeffrey, an actor living in Los Angeles, a very funny comedian, an intellectual pundit (when he chooses to be) and a man with a laugh that fills rooms with joy.  Jeffrey has been diagnosed with cancer, stage 2 lymphoma to be precise, and at present he is being squeezed in the middle like a tube of toothpaste by a grossly negligent ‘system’ and the people employed by it who have zero sense of humanity. I am mad as Hell over all of it.

The name of his insurance company matters, it’s Molina Health.  With ‘our’ shareholder, profit-driven, horribly broken, healthcare system in the United States the truth is that what is happening to Jeffrey could happen to any of us and our loved ones. It also matters that his insurance company hangs up on him. It matters that the administrative staff tell him that his premium will quadruple if he ‘wants’ home care for changing the dressing on the tube sticking out of his arm (sepsis being a real possibility) where he is hooked up to receive his chemo. It matters that I escalate and help seems imminent only to have some drone of an administrative staff person deflect and say it will take two weeks. It matters that appointments are made and cancelled due to software, and human errors and then the humans charged with delivering this news are devoid of humanity. It matters because the stress of dealing with getting healthy on your own (even with a supportive tribe) is enormous. It matters that his first oncologist failed to speak a single word to him in the nine weeks immediately following his diagnosis and never prescribed anti-nausea pills with the host of others which he did prescribe.  Jeffrey’s second oncologist is amazing. Despite the fact that I am a non-relation he has taken my call to problem solve aspects related to Jeffrey’s treatment from Sweden where I am currently.

Which brings me to two components of the health insurance storyline in the United States; employer supported efforts like those which “Matt” as an employee of Lowe’s enjoys (really amazing benefits which should prompt all of you reading this to vote with your wallet and shop at your local Lowe’s ‘just because’) and the idea of a single-payer system such as our Canadian neighbors and those in the Nordics enjoy. On this day, with TrumpCare effectively dead, the reality of a single-payer health care system in the United States has risen like Fawkes in Harry Potter.

Let me remove any ambiguity, I have a couple of issues with the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) but neither have to do with the fact that it came to fruition under our 44th President; the first is that it didn’t go far enough and the second being its mandate to be purchased under penalty.  If we have sufficient financial resources to wage seemingly endless war across the planet then Americans of every stripe should have universal healthcare on par with what our federally elected officials enjoy. And if that can’t be done then our elected officials should have that benefit voided.

How do we get to a single-payer health care system to the universal benefit of 330 million Americans and put the United States on par with other first world nations? Well, California, where my friend Jeffrey lives, ever the ‘test the water’ state for public policy adoption has a viable solution called The Healthy California Act. Evidently this legislation has broad support on both sides of the political aisle in La-La Land but one man has blocked it from advancing, and there is a reason for that. Actually there are about 475,000 reasons in the form of contributions from the Political Action Committees of health insurance companies and their executives to Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Redon re-election campaign.  Redon is a perfect example of the systemic violation of the masses by a corrupt politician bought and paid for by the highest bidders for his favor.

SB-562 The Healthy California Act.

The passage of a single-payer system in California, or nationally, wouldn’t put insurers out of business but the resulting shifts in the market would demand agility that insurance companies are not generally known to possess. A model which offers premium coverage in lieu of, or as a supplement to, a single-payer system would still provide considerable revenue – with a healthier demographic contributing to shareholder value.  Policies which would allow customers choices in taking advantage of medical tourism opportunities around the world should also be considered. The increasing perception of health insurers places them at odds with the humankind they are supposed to be serving – essentially sentencing their policy holders to death when costs become inconvenient and expensive. When we make a conscious choice to deny protection and participation by our most vulnerable we can no longer claim to be an advanced or civil society. The costs are too high when we lose our compassion and willingness to step forward and be part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem.

Critically we need to dislodge ourselves from the ‘us vs. them’ mindset that is so pervasive in any conversation about health insurance, healthcare and providing a path forward for all of our citizens. Universal peace of mind around the most fragile aspect of living our lives fully and completely should not even be a question in 2017.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

 

 

Mary’s Hem – or, we see what we cultivate within us

I would like to think that we are really blank canvases awaiting the brushstrokes of experience and creativity to ‘colour’ us. That each of us has an artists’ eye for beauty that is part nature, part nurture.  The expansion of our natural appreciation develops broadly or narrowly depending upon a hundred million variables and how we process these data points to ultimately manifest our greatest selves. There’s little doubt that our unique filters, acquired through experience and intellectual pursuits, allow us to see things that others fail to – and likewise we will never see what they do.  Does it have to be this way?

Mostar

Herzeg Day Tours image, Mostar bridge

Against the backdrop of a Facebook conversation about a photograph of the old bridge Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) a Swedish artist acquaintance of mine introduced me to two individuals – one a woman living in Sweden originally from Bosnia, and the other a Slovene man from Trieste (Italy); this is one of the greatest joys of social media (I would be unlikely to meet these individuals in any other way)!

In visiting the man’s profile and (of course) his albums this morning I was struck by his photograph of a fresco in an church in Muggia, Italy – and I guarantee what I saw isn’t what you see.

Madonna

Stefan Turk Muggia Italy

What I saw was based not upon the life experience of being brought up as a Roman Catholic, or subsequently being a nominally practicing Episcopalian (since age 19) with profound leanings toward Buddhism.  No, what I saw in the gold adorned hems of Mary’s robe was calligraphy – and not just any calligraphy, I saw the word “God” in the gold embellishment of a Renaissance artist who was unlikely to be Muslim. I saw convergence and at-one-ment, there is only one God and He (or She) has 99 names. So much so did I see Islamic calligraphy that I sent the image at left to a very dear girlfriend of mine in Istanbul to ask her what she saw!  I know some of you might read this (not having any previous encounter with my rather Unitarian views based upon Eastern philosophy) and think I am either a blasphemer or a heretic  (or both), I am neither. But I see convergence in nearly everything, the common which unites us rather than the differences which serve (radicals and extremists) to divide us. I see God’s hand in everything, all the time.

The ‘nurture’ aspect of my filter (in this case) comes from a long held fascination with Persian miniature paintings, illuminated manuscripts spanning examples of Books of Hours, Vedic texts as well as from the Qu’ran. Each of these (and those of many more traditions) created by a single artisan for the Glory of God, often times by candle light and using tiny brushes made of single hairs from a camel, a boar or a sable in combination with gold leaf and precious minerals.

More specifically, in the case of the hem of Mary’s robe in Muggia, was the infinite pleasure and expansion of my curiousity found at the Alfred M. Sackler Museum (part of Harvard University DSCN9996Art Museums) in multiple visits between October 1999 and January 2000 to Letters in Gold: Ottoman Calligraphy from the Sakip Sabanci Collection – (okay, and yes, having just looked up the book on Amazon (who knew?) to share with you I have now moved my copy from off the floor to my desk!!!)

We look at the Virgin Mary just as we also understand Guanyin (also known as Kuan Yin) short for Guanshiyin, which means “Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World” to be models of virtue and compassion.  Even though my filter has created a sacred connection between this particular example of religious art of Christianity and the calligraphy art of Islam, it feels somehow a blessing to see one – one I needed to share with you today.

God

God in Islamic calligraphy by Sultan Balubaid

ottoman-calligraphy--1-2

God in Ottoman calligraphy from yurdan.com

Stefan Turk's photograph Mary's hem, Muggia Italy

Stefan Turk’s photograph Mary’s hem, Muggia Italy

 

With so much of our world fragmented, focused upon dissention and disparity there is a refuge to be found in my heart,  joy in the tiny elements of our existence that is resonant with love, things that make me feel profound gratitude for bearing witness to sublime, for this is the unique filter I have been graced to possess in the hope of using it for amplification that benefits all of us.

Love isn’t love until you give it away. Let’s do something more than put forth swaths of pink and red and white, let’s celebrate love in seeing more clearly the pure white light of God’s love all around us.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ via livelikeadog@gmail.com through PayPal.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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The ‘muscle memory’ of Anahata

ImageA social media acquaintance of mine of some renown, Edel O’Mahony, offered this fabulous meme on Facebook, and the contents of this blog post come about because of her words.

Our souls are always on a path to reunite with perfection – however imperfect we might perceive ourselves to be, never doubt we are worthy of this. The state of ‘at-one-ment’ as I call it… is our most natural state of ‘being’.  The “remembrance” which Edel references so eloquently is the spiritual equivalent of an athlete’s ‘muscle memory’ save for the fact that athlete or ordinary Jane or Joe alike we all can come to ‘be’ in this state of grace with desire, calm and practice perhaps but no special training.

I believe that most of us forget everything important for us to really know, the things we already knew as a soul before we were born into our physical and current human life, by age 3. The so called Indigo Child might hold onto these treasures a little longer – in fact into adulthood if an environment of tolerance, nurturance and awareness can be sustained despite the obvious obstacles of ‘mainstream’ society.

But this, the remembrance of being, I think is visceral – cellular memory – and ethereal as a mind function. That the mind is outside of our physical being and not in our brain is increasingly addressed by thought leaders, at scientific symposiums and in research alike.Image

Anahata – at once the consciousness of love, empathy, selflessness as much as to “be love” (not to be in love) and to accept the reality of divine actions both in our lives as well as guiding us toward ‘at-one-ment’.  When our Anahata (heart) chakra is aligned we feel ‘it’ as spinning white light right beneath the sternum – or, at least I do. This powerful ‘perfection’ and connection, a resonance with a single person or all of mankind, is an awesome blessing. Who wouldn’t want to exist in a state of perpetuity of such? I think it is easy to misconstrue this energy as something attained through physical consummation in the form of sex.  Yes, it can be, certainly between two partners fully evolved, conscious of the gifting of their energy (and not taking, taking, taking) to create a completed circuit without beginning or end.  Their climax being an expression of universal love as much as for one another.  Yet, being without such a partner should not dissuade you from the very real possibility of feeling Anahata as a consummation of your ‘self’ with the light, functioning in it, being a vehicle for its expression. It would be lovely to have this state be uninterrupted but for the fact that its power is so overwhelming that we mere human forms ill-equipped physically to function at this higher level of consciousness and still be “of this world”.  For myself, I recognise that as it comes to me I am moved to tears of gratitude for knowing such – however fleeting.  My time, and yours, to permanently reunite in this universal love will come, perhaps tomorrow or in twenty years. It is how we journey and live at the edge of this grace that determines how frequently we are used as a vehicle for its expression – habit begets renewal – but I don’t ‘know’ that it can be achieved as simply as turning on a lightswitch.

A friend shared a video that almost comes into my being as a prayer (I hope it finds resonance with you as well) – I won’t deny that at nearly 10 minutes you really need to be in a place of wanting to understand, or need a smack upside the head to remind you of who you really are.  The cinematography is stunning, the narrators’ voice is nearly hypnotic, you’ll want to watch it a couple of times – and bookmark it because truly unless you know what you are looking for you won’t find it a second time (and even as I did it still took me going back through all my Facebook and Twitter feeds and that of the friend that shared it, plus our private chat session to find it).

Being still does not mean don’t move. It means move in peace. ~ E’yen A. Gardner

There’s so much noise about finding peace that it is hard to imagine how anyone does!  You can’t shut down the world around you, no matter how many sensory deprivation (isolation tank) sessions you sign up for.  Regardless of your path to realise the truest essence of your being – your soul – with sweat lodges, meditation, yoga, reading volumes of sacred texts, prayer, silence, harmonic resonance with Tibetan bowls, to find peace within, and ensure it is also without, it begins as the folk song goes begins with the self.

If you enjoy my blog please consider “buying me a cup of tea” in your currency via PayPal at livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Ambivalence kills any relationship

ninLet me say that the “Dick and Dork Theory” of my girlfriend Jennifer and her college best friend spans the entire human condition. In brief: at any one time, in any relationship, one person is being a dick and the other is being a dork. My brief (on the same) is “s/he who is ambivalent determines the course of a relationship” – any relationship by the way. It is the uncertainty, the lack of constancy and displacement which ultimately drives a wedge between people – patience, expectation, passion and being valued are all extinguished in the face of ambivalence.

ImageI have been thinking a lot about relationships of late. Those based in friendship, the possibilities of new love, of those falling out of love, what we feel for humanity or the blood of our hearts in small people, social interactions un-imagined even 20 years ago (that often come with unrealistic expectations of immediate intimacy and action), old marriages that mature with time like great wines and those which after years of various piled up illusions shatter like a crystal goblet on a stone floor.  Storms of alcohol and sarcasm, ignorance and selfishness, self-pity and meanness are the outward signs of deeper symptoms of co-dependence, neglect, abuse, and yes, ambivalence.  And it is the light (or darkness) of bearing witness to the pain of these un-couplings which make me grateful to have lived alone for so long – nothing I offer will prevent the raw emotions or serve to heal wounds faster, there is no equivalent for New-Skin or Bio-Oil for the soul.

What we at our most vulnerable often forget is that to “treat someone as we wish to be treated” leaves no ambiguity about how to engage with others. Of course FULLY embracing this across the scope of those with whom we come in contact on a daily basis would be exhausting and utterly impractical. Without self-love and self-compassion, some measure of discernment, and personal responsibility we cannot be present for others.  Whilst we should offer the same Lara Croftcompassion we would like to experience, sometimes the recipient is far too busy casting blame and aspersions or feeling sorry for him or herself to accept what we can, realistically, offer.  Therefore, the challenge I believe is ever to be “present” without embracing the cliff hanging rescue of our protagonist by the likes of Lara Croft or Dudley Do-Right.

A man I am coming to know recently wrote to tell me that I didn’t owe him an email – that my desire to do so (or his) was not an obligation to reciprocate. Which reminded me of a single line from the wonderful movie Monsieur Ibrahim where Omar Sharif’s character says to his young friend Momo (Pierre Boulanger)  while in the Turkish bath (somewhere in Paris): “What you give pierreto others is yours, no one can take it away, what you do not give is lost forever.” (My translation from the original French – forgive me if I am ever so slightly off). This is the antithesis of ambivalence, this is manifestly how living should be – giving without consideration of reciprocity or ego demanding ‘credit’ for the doing, for taking pleasure from what (we hope) gives pleasure to others but taking that pleasure for ourselves regardless.  The process of building discernment is a means of protecting our energy and our being, it creates a permission to disengage and, of course, cease ‘doing’ when our efforts are not appreciated or when there is hostility being expressed on the part of the other person.  Our raison d’etre is to live (and hopefully love), justly and powerfully, gently and with kindness and respect, whilst maintaining inviolable boundaries and we can only do this when we present ourselves in fullness of being.  Our relationships should be a source of comfort and stability, providing sustenance against the toxicity of family, friendships, work relationships and ‘love’ that we have all experienced that are terribly wrong.  It is truly up to us to stand for beauty and provide a means for it to resonate rather than let life slip from our fingers.

It is why, I think, people who garden are more generous than others. The gardener has a tacit agreement with the Earth and its creatures to nurture and understands that time and patience is requisite to see a single flower bloom to be pollinated and produce a pepper or tomato or an arm full of blossoms. It is much the same with relationships – to flourish we need to give and receive in measures which will sustain and cause us to thrive, assuming that connectedness provides desired intention and subsequent action is without egregious error.  Guarantees of success do not exist with any relationship without sincere desire to take something precious and provide shelter and cherish it.  I think it takes so much more to extricate oneself from the less than ideal than anyone credits. Perhaps if we made our expectations as transparent as we later do with our regrets the altered reality of our relationships would mean less pain all the way around.

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the price of a cup of tea in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Father

This afternoon I was given a precious gift by a woman who I have not seen since January of 1979. It might have been a “let’s get this over” twenty minute conversation, but it was nearly seven hours.  And while I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this extraordinary trip down memory lane (from 1st grade onto high school graduation) and catch up with this once school bus mate of mine one piece of this marathon brought an extraordinary man back to my heart.

ImageWhen I was a small child my church got a new priest.  Shortly thereafter the members of the church who decide such things purchased a buff Cocker Spaniel puppy (named Sandy) for him from my parents.  I somehow (all these years later) recall my dad mentioning that he had a conversation with Reverend Father Richard Graeber about attending mass, tithes and his relationship with God and how Father Graeber had basically given him (and our family) a ‘pass’ on active participation as a result. This was in the late 1960’s, post Vatican II, and as I made my First Communion my parents offered that  I no longer ‘had to’ go to church and religious instruction if I didn’t want to. I should share that I gave the rectory offices a (rather bad) painting at the time of Jesus surrounded by a flock of lambs – so my heart and head were certainly in a place to continue and ultimately be Confirmed in 7th grade in the Roman Catholic faith.  In 3rd grade Mother Teresa’s work was gaining global attention and I decided I wanted to be a nun; this was however relatively short-lived given my burgeoning interest in boys and music.

Shortly after the beginning of 1973, after years of court battles, SCOTUS issued its decision around Roe vs Wade.  (Note to every adult reading this if you think your 12 year old is too young to understand such things you are more out of touch than the ‘parents’ found trying to be hipsters in Oscar Mayer bacon and KFC boneless chicken ads.)  It wasn’t that I was promiscuous (though I might have been somewhat precocious) but I felt strongly that since The Church (ahem) was taking such a strong view of claiming to know what a woman should and shouldn’t be able to do with her body I couldn’t possibly be confirmed in such a faith.  It’s far too easy to assume ‘kids’ would dread having a conversation on a serious subject that would be at odds with and potentially abhorrent to an authority figure. Father Graeber was patient, intent, kind, respectful and told me that my thoughts were rationale, he could find no fault with my decision and that in the end it was more important to him that I have a personal relationship with God than adhere to Church doctrine.  He already had my esteem but in that moment became larger than life to me.  At 19 the Episcopal Church became the haven that the Roman Catholic Church could not, where the latter had stripped away all that was mysterious and wonderful to me the former with its gorgeous windows and alters and icons and gilt and carved choirs, and traditional hymns (played with organ and not folk music) and prayers was balm. (I maintain the perspective that only in very rare instances has the architecture of RC churches not become more like that which Calvin and Luther argued for in the 16th century.)

Years later I would fall in love and ask him, now a Monsignor, to bend the rules again – to marry my fiancé and my unconfirmed self ON A SUNDAY in the 19th century clapboard church with a ceiling painted the blue usually found on the robes of the Virgin Mary which was once his parish. (And, shhhh, while we are at it, could I also read a poem I had written – making this anything but a traditional Roman Catholic wedding mass.)  And, again, his inherent nature being one of acceptance, tolerance and being an instrument of love came through. Image

Seven years later I sat in his office in tears, my marriage coming to an amicable but sudden end.  Monsignor was compassion personified.  I probably would have gotten through it without him, but I didn’t have to. And, as ‘life happens’, I moved to Atlanta, then San Diego, back to Western New York, to Chatham (NJ), to Old Greenwich (CT),  to Bedford (NY) and then to Boston and around her surrounds for the course of a decade, back to Western New York – and I also traveled, a lot.  I found churches (and cathedrals) where I could bend to my knees and offer gratitude, ask solace, find quietude, beseech intervention or blessing everywhere I visited or lived.  Someplace in the midst of all this, in a visit to his last rectory, I discovered that Father Graeber had retired, and a sadness washed over me for I had lost ‘a rock’ that was always there regardless of the infrequency of my reaching out to him.

This afternoon my childhood friend Karin gave Father Graeber back to me in a dichotomy based in grief and joy; it seems that he died the same week as her dad but was also the (previously unknown to me) beloved uncle of one of my most favorite high school friends Jimmer.  If genetics really do pass randomly through our families (as I can bear witness to in my niece and nephew with traits uniquely mine) then I would like to think that the extraordinary man that I learned Jim has become is a reflection of his uncle who held my trust and confidence and who continues to hold a very special place in my heart.

Pater graeber in pace – in vita tu ingens discrimen. Tibi gratias ago.

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