A Life

Robert Bob Andy Grandpa Papa
July 25, 1935
October 21, 2010

Son
Brother
Uncle
Friend
Husband
Father In Law
Step Parent
Grandfather
Member of the military
Railroad switch-man
Pilot
Flight instructor
Helicopter pilot
Glider instructor
Target Shooter
Marksman
Hunter
Handyman extraordinaire
Tool maker
Wine maker
Brewer
Gardener
Volunteer
Re-loader
Wood craftsman
Fisherman
Frugal spendthrift
Collector
Avid reader
Loner
Beloved
Ox Strong
Mule Stubborn
Gentle
Tender
Full-time generous heart
Part-time major grump

Full time searcher of new knowledge
Part time stubborn stick-in-the-mud

Aficionado of music
Refused to dance
Amazing smile hidden in a protective cover-up frown
Tolerant, accepting yet held his prejudices close to the vest

Not much of a listener and less of a talker
Loved his ready-made family to the core of his being
And more…so much more…enough man for multiple lifetimes. I miss him.

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Wheat From Chaff (CCR)

Fourteen of my 73 years were well served by the education received in Catholic schools. Nuns were amazing. Their knowledge of subject matter, their teaching skills and their dedication have rarely been matched. In high school and college, priests shared the teaching duties and they, as well as the nuns, imbued the Catholic concept of God into each day. I spent a number of years volunteering and teaching in Catholic Schools, often reviewing the attributes of God as presented by the priests and nuns.

An omnipotent and omniscient Being was the God of the “one true, holy, Catholic and apostolic church”. We were given Jesus as the human aspect of God so we could feel a connection with a part of the Being. We could identify with the human side of God through Jesus.

On Sunday, October 16, 2011, the Kansas City Star published a lengthy and detailed article on the recent indictment of Bishop Robert Finn in connection with the abuse charges against Sean Ratigan, a priest of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. The article quotes members of the Catholic Church, giving their reactions to the charges against Bishop Finn.

A member of the St. Louis Parish on Swope Parkway, Jim Dougherty, expresses his belief in the following quote: “I still believe in a God that relishes and redeems woundedness.” (page A10, fifth column)

A God that is omnipotent and omniscient, a God of one true, holy, Catholic and apostolic church relishes something labeled woundedness? This God relishes the wounds inflicted on children by the shepherds ordained to protect from harm? Or is the relish of God savored and saved for the perpetrators of the wounds? Equal relish for victim and criminal?

A God, a being Supreme and all-powerful, that relishes anything fails the test of credibility.

A Tribute (CCR)

No matter the God image fitting into each belief system…
No matter the depth of belief or the strength of non-belief…
No matter the participation in tradition and ritual…
No matter the distance of desire to be part of organized church practice…
No matter the connection with community…
No matter the intensity of standing alone…

It is time.

We–former Catholics, struggling Catholics, stanch and dedicated Catholics, disgusted and achingly sad Catholics, forever Catholics— owe a debt. It is time to acknowledge the debt and participate in paying the debt.

On Friday, October 14, 2011 the Huffington Post article reported that Bishop Robert Finn and his diocese will face prosecution on charges stemming from child abuse allegations. No doubt the Kansas City Star newspaper will carry the story today. Perhaps this indictment is the gear opening the floodgates to flush the filth, to forcibly
cleanse what has festered beyond believing.

And that tribute we owe the Davids fighting the power and money of Goliath? The tribute to perseverance, to strength, to courage?

No matter the God fitting into each belief system, we owe tribute to an Irish Catholic priest willing to face the Vatican. We owe tribute to the very precious few women and men within the structure of the Catholic Church willing to push against the wall of denial, to fight the barricades set by the network.

No matter the God fitting into each belief system, we owe thanks and support to Survivors of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic priests. We owe the years, the decades, the centuries filled with little boys and little girls grown to hurt and haunted women and men. We owe the pain, the neglect, the life contaminated at the hands of shepherds charged with protection and guidance. We owe for dismissal by family and community. We owe for the ugliness of blaming the victims and covering for those ordained into a society of protection.

Equal Protection Under The Law (CCR)

Defining equal and defining protection are exercises for another blog. For the purposes of this blog accepting some measure of belief in the concept strains credulity when looking at the current situation in the Catholic Church. Bishop Finn and Msgr. Robert Murphy of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are embroiled in yet another cover-up of child abuse by ordained men of the church. Both men appeared before a Grand Jury investigating this latest local incident of sanctioned institutional use of children.

For years, the Catholic Church has defiled children both by actions of ordained men of the church and by concerted and ongoing efforts to keep the problem hidden and out of the legal system.

The Mantra, the song of enforced silence has many verses. We hear them over and over: “God’s Law governs these Holy Men. God’s law comes first. The Church, Our Shepard, know best. The Church offers the protection of these good and holy men. The Church has a process of protection. God protects His people through the men of the church. Civil protections have no place in the abuse situations.” A current favorite is the new/old standard of blaming the victims, labeling Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests as trouble makers looking for a chance to make noise. Somewhat reminiscent of inquisitions of torture for failing to adopt the party line.

Granted, a diocese bankrupted under the strain of legal costs defending the Church, the priests, the bishops, the cardinal involved in one situation. As punishment, the Cardinal left United States jurisdiction to a position as head of Mary Major Church in Rome complete with all the comforts and trappings of his position in the hierarchy.

Granted, victims received money for silence.
Granted, psychological treatment was offered to some victims.
Granted, the abuse of children and the institutional cover-up has cost the Catholic Church in both membership and in revenue.

However, we are looking at equal protection under the Civil Law for victims rather than the cost of abusing, denying, ignoring, hiding, covering up. The Catholic Church has used their arsenal to keep the protection of children out of Civil Court, to avoid the open and honest investigation of the corruption. Lawyers protect the Church while the church works to deny protection of the abused.

We are searching for equal and for protection under Civil Law as we look at photos of Bishop Finn and his lawyers entering the building for the Grand Jury investigation. We see Finn and Murphy enjoying their absolute right–the protection of legal counsel, the hearing before Civil Law, the constant advice of those expert in Civil Law, their day in a Civil Law setting. We see these men of the church availing themselves of the very rights and protections that the church has worked so hard to deny victims of abuse by ordained men of the church.

God’s law protects the children? Civil Law protests the priests? Equal protection?

Livin’ Large

A stranger’s furrowed brow, faltering voice, eyes locked on mine helped to make the message unvarnished. His partner silent, shaking her head in disbelief, a Sharpie style embellishment of clarity.

“Your place is beautiful, so many huge trees, private and beautiful, secluded but easy access, storage buildings… but your house! No dish washer, no garbage disposal, no walk-in closets, one TV and only one bathroom? Sorry, but this is just too primitive for us.”

Primitive? I live in primitive conditions?

Take another look.

My Halloween tree, craggy and huge, is home to an owl…night music for the velvet hours spend in the Sunday Room, a large sun room named by a three-year old just learning the days of the week. Sycamore shade keeps the room cool in summer protected in winter. Red-bud trees announce spring along with oak leaves that hold until those red-buds blossom.

A real barn, red and tin roofed, may now be emptied of lifetime collections but it is safe harbor to memories, to a karma of diverse talents and fierce determination to solve any problem.

We washed dishes together, he meticulous with scalding water and me with quick hands and ragged towels. What mechanical thing could replace that time?

Each room bustles with constant and sustaining memories. Family, children, their spouses, grandchildren, friends and neighbors push back against the walls of this house making a mansion where walk-in closets need not apply. Even that one bathroom proved to be a miracle of scheduling, taking turns, learning to G.I. shower during crowded holiday visits.

Among my Catholic friends, a particular practice involving St. Joseph is about 100% guaranteed success. When a home goes on the market, a statue of St. Joseph is buried in the yard to insure a quick sell. Several friends check weekly to see if I have handled that particular real estate boon, promising that it is more important than half empty rooms, bright lights, stashed family photos and a fresh cookie smell.

And still I resist, making little effort to acquire that stature of the saint, even if I knew where to buy it. The For Sale sign persists in advertising my primitive living conditions while I keep reliving volumes of sharing my life with Bob and our family–most definitely Living Large.

Never Lonely

The dead are never lonely.
Dead is gone. Maybe in an eternal bliss, no matter the name. Maybe in that down side of bliss. Maybe just gone, no more–dead. Universal destiny, the sure and certain agent of change.

Because death is, life surely must evolve out of pretense, of false pride, of ignorance. Surely we recognize the life requirement to face the mirror with honesty, with a grasp of the reality of death.

This was a drive-around-and-pretend-to-have-a-destination day, one of those days that can suck the good out of the best of work intentions. Air so sweet with autumn, colors random, filled with splash and zest. My favorite season of layered clothing, sun and shadow, wood fires to warm old memories.

Without warning the tears came, blinding me. I was driving. I was not the passenger in his big SUV. Was not reacting to his hand as he reached over, touched my cheek. Such a brief and private moment, one I perpetually took for granted.

My thought was so odd. “Please don’t be lonely. Be OK. I don’t want you to feel like this. Please don’t be lonely.”

So I am grateful. I am. He is dead but he is not lonely. That is a good thing.

Keening

A ramble…
Grief is universal.
We all experience the suffocating moments that change lives. There are no bromides that actually move the process along. Cultures build the box and most times grief lives in that box.

In our home we joked about the John Wayne School of Communication, the stoicism that pushed grief down and never let it heal in the light of other humans. Prayer is a common crutch offering the illusion that something helpful is happening. Moments of gasping for breath as the sobbing overtakes are inescapable.

Keening isn’t often part of our culture. The sound is animal like. Men and women give over to being consumed, lost in the grief. Maybe keening is a hedge against depression of unresolved grief, of grief swallowed not sounded, of self medication to bearable.

Men and women lose a job, a home, a life time of expectations. They, as they knew themselves, are gone, emptied out of all they found dependable. Nothing works, no boot strap pull matters.

A person hears the partner’s declaration that the union is over, the love simply isn’t. A maze of hurt, insecure and confused, marks the lives within the ripple.

The devastation of illness is a grief played over and over, every day a family tears in the grip. Long range plans dissolve. Hope in a different future becomes one-foot-in-front-of-the other. Joy shuts down and pretend takes over.

Maybe we do keen, but not in a way that helps. Too much silence, too much John Wayne and not enough bellow against the pain. Too much stiff upper lip and not enough rage.

Last evening, a conversation about healing from cancer ended after an hour but the thoughts continued most of the night. A compassionate doctor told the patient that some of the most difficult times were the days, weeks and months when other people pronounced healing over, but it was not. Times when fear, loneliness or depression still shadowed every day, but other people felt enough was enough. Time to move on…stop dwelling on fear. Get over the grief compelling acceptance of a new life, a life of threat. Keening seems so very much in order.

Know what matters? What helps? What heals?

The touch of family/friendship, understanding of new ways that seem to mock what was once a life. The touch of family/friendship that is the knowledge that someone hears the silent keening, someone reads fake words and finds the truth, someone would respond…even when it feels impossible to ask. Someone is willing to give all the time needed. Talk about wonderful creatures!