Conversation

Each time I attempt to add a blog, to get back to something that was vital to my days, a communication with appreciated readers, I give up knowing that the line between maudlin and honest emotion can be thin.

Time does not heal. Time drags, weighing on the soul. Time questions the belief in the future, a future able to hold a measure of peace, let along any measure of joy.

I want my Bob back in my life. I want to talk to him no matter that our conversations were mostly me talking and Bob looking at me either smiling or frowning. Economy of words, yes, but a heart that loved me without reservation. Who possibly deserves such a gift? Not me.

I yearn–absolutely yearn–for one more conversation. He needs to know that Mark and Chris take care of me. He needs to know that Mark and Chris really take care me. He would love them more if I could tell him about their phone calls, their advice, their support, their strength. He would laugh and frown at our fantasy of a little hotel in a particular United States possession, walking the beach, sharing the work so we could get to the play part. Guess who gets to clean the rooms? Guess who doesn’t care?

Bob needs to know that Dan and Paul absolutely stay with me in every way that is possible for them, attentive, caring, checking. Each has welcomed me into their lives in new and caring ways.

Bob needs to know that I ache with sorrow over not appreciating him as I should have done. He simply went about the business of living in his quiet, dogged way, mending, repairing, building, handling what was to be handled.

Bob handled living and he handled the process of dying with the same quiet, dogged and Bob-like way. I want to go back and appreciate how he did that. I want to cook his favorite food and bake a big batch of cookies that he liked.

I want one more chance to say, “I love you.” I want one more touch, one more time to reach over and touch his warmth. I want to see the way he looked at me in response to that touch. I want one more chance to say, “I love you.”

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Survivors Defined CCR

As I see it Bishop Robert Finn needs clarification concerning the meaning of ‘surviving abuse”. A survivor, by definition, lives on; sometimes leading what appears as normal life. Young children abused as a seminal point do grow up, become educated, raise a family and often maintain ties to the church that protected and harbored the abuser.

That normal is a facade. The abused child does survive but normal becomes impossible. Trust is destroyed. The world can never again be safe. The abused child can never be whole, is always less-than, looses the ability to be secure in any moment of life. Memory is damaged because the breached trust requires constant vigilance even in the most mundane circumstances. Huge chunks of what should have been happy childhood memories are compromised. Friendships never reach the depth of strength because darkness and pain lurk just below the surface. Ever vigilant, the survivor cannot believe, cannot trust, cannot be whole.

If the abused child of generations ago did speak up, did try to get help from parents or from another priest the overwhelming odds are that the child was not believed, or, worse the child was blamed. “What did you do to entice Fr. So&So to do what you are lying about?” The breach widens. The child slips farther into becoming less-than, soiled, guilty.

In later years, some who have suffered abuse through the immense power of the Catholic Church may test the strength of family relationships. The abused child grown to damaged adult speaks through voice or pen, testing tenuous attempts to believe that family relationships will be loving and suportive. The result can be disastrous to the spirit; shunning, distancing, disbelief and even disgust that the abused has not been able to get-over-it. Clarity is absolute now. The institution that sanctioned and protected abusers is more important than the abused.

I have spent most of my 70 plus years as a member of the Catholic Church, passionate and devoted for much of that time. I believed in the person of Jesus and the message of the teachings attributed to him. True, I have struggled with the secondary position of women in the church and was not pacified by token of lector and server. My life experience taught that the nuns, teachers and nurses, did the real work of Jesus.

The Catholic Church is not alone in gross mishandling of abuse, using the funds of the faithful to defend the indefensible. Other institutions are guilty.

Does mutual guilt exonerate? Does diminished responsibility follow wholesale abuse of power? Speaking out for the victims, demanding an accounting of perpetrators and those who protected the perpetrators in not a condemnation of any good accomplished by organized religion.

Rather, the demand for accountability and justice is an acclamation in the belief of what Jesus is said to represent. The demand for accountability and justice is the only way to restore a belief that the Catholic church lives the message of Jesus and is a belief system organized in honor of that message.

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.

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!