When my friend Gary first asked me to speak at church today about how our congregation finds community, I said no. I assumed they wanted someone to talk about how awesome we are at it–and I just still get that “alone in a crowd” feeling–even though I’m in charge of a lot of stuff there. Luckily, Gary agreed that my sales pitch might ring hollow (“You want community? We got community by the bucketful at FCPC!!!”) and assented to a slightly less enthusiastic meditation on community, why it’s hard, and why it’s important. A slightly edited version of that talk is what follows.
When I was in college, I was in a women’s a cappella group. I auditioned when I transferred to this school and was so happy to get in—I hoped that these dozen women would be my new friends in an unfamiliar place. After about a year, I was elected the musical director. I was so excited to get the gig—I had more musical training than anyone else in the group—so I knew I had the technical skills to arrange the songs, and the ear to tune us up to sound better than we had last year. I worked all summer to plan a great set of songs; I stayed up late working to arrange them for the voices in our group; I mapped out an aggressive rehearsal plan to make sure we’d sound perfect come the end-of-semester show.
I worked hard. We sounded good. I knew what I was doing.
And I was so lonely. Continue reading “Lover, Beloved”
My turn to pray this week on behalf of our congregation. I read all these tweets this weekend that called on clergy to address Charlottesville on Sunday morning or be complicit. I nodded and wondered what my pastor would do for the sermon. I read tweets that said, “church leaders, this is on you” and I nodded and then said “oh crap, that’s me.” Continue reading “Prayers of the People”
A family friend starred in a musical called “Mother, I’m Here” that had its one and only performance in Schenectady in the late 80s. We had the cast recording on heavy rotation in my family’s house. The show followed four girls from childhood to adulthood and into old age and has a million beautiful moments in it. Today, I’m remembering a line in the song “Dear Diary,” sung by our friend as she played a teen:
Dear diary, I think the mirror lies, ’cause when I take a look I don’t see me at all. Inside I know I’m brave and beautiful, so tell me why I look so pimply, scared, and small?
I always loved that line–it seemed so perfect to me as a pre-pubescent girl. Why did I look like a spazzy, frizzy-haired, powerless *child* when I felt like a force of nature, like I contained universes? Nothing about my life as it appeared seem to match how it felt. I was particularly irritated that my parents had chosen such a pedestrian, common name for me. I really felt more like a “Cassandra” than a Kerry. If I’d been Cassandra, they could call me “Cassie” if I remained girl-next-door cute and spunky, but I’d have Cassandra to fall back on if I reached my full majestic potential, or became a partner in a law firm. It would work either way. Clearly they hadn’t thought this through. Continue reading “Yes I will”
I miss my dad, I said to Nathaniel last night, when I could not stop myself from crying during the Barcelona-Manchester United game. We’d bought a ticket for my dad back in the spring. It was going to be the first in-person Man U game for both of them.
I miss my dad sooo much, I said on Facebook, immediately regretting it. Triple “o” so? Not my usual style–I’d counsel against it. Multiple vowels to intensify the “so.” “So” to intensify the “much.” “Much” to intensify the missing. Vague upon vague upon vague. Much missing? What’s missing?
I’m not missing anything. Continue reading “Missing persons”
On the day my father died, I came home from work early and sat with him. His eyes were closed most of the time, which was par for the course over the last two years. He’d mostly stopped speaking, but when I kissed him he moaned a little and fluttered his eyelids, acknowledging my presence.
I had a vision of him then. He was outside, moving through a field. Ahead of him, the sun was so bright that I couldn’t see what was there, and it threw him into silhouette. I couldn’t see his face, because he was striding away, moving quickly as usual. But his hair was thick and dark, and he moved with purpose and ease.
In the bed, he grasped my hand.
After he died, I held it for a very long time. I remembered my duty: to be a witness. His skin was soft and smooth. He lay as if sleeping. I memorized his face and his fingernails. For each of my sisters and brothers, I held his hand, keeping it warm though he no longer could. Silently, one by one they each had their turn: Continue reading “Visions”
Don Rowland Searle
January 14, 1942 – June 13, 2017
Loving husband and father. Doting grandfather. Engineer, gardener, Manchester United fan. Steadfast, gentle, honest, genial, determined, kind.
Grateful for the gift of his life, our hearts are broken at the loss of it.
Continue reading “Don Rowland Searle”
My father came home from the hospital last night, and his prognosis is uncertain. While I feel a deep sense of peace with the decision to bring him home and prioritize his quality of life, I struggle to express that peace meaningfully, especially with my children. I find that I am a pillar of strength except for the moments when I am not. This is a list of things to remember in the midst of uncertainty.
The short version:
Stay true to the Coach Taylor principle: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Even when you are, by definition, losing.
The long version:
If your goal is to avoid death, you will eventually be disappointed.
Don’t give in to the temptation to turn grief into outrage. Every death is painful for someone, but not every death is an injustice. We’ve gotten so many good years with our dad; some people never know their fathers; some people’s fathers die much younger; some people’s fathers live to 101. Saying it’s not fair that your dad is dying is like saying it’s not fair that the stone you picked up isn’t a bird. Continue reading “Things to remember right now; AKA, the Coach Taylor principle”