inviting and yet locked

“By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision
to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path
toward a spiritual life.”

Thomas More

As polarized as we have been,
we Americans are locked in a cultural war for the soul of our country.

Pat Buchanan


(an inviting, yet closed and obviously shuttered, secluded entrance way / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a lovely Orthodox Christian blog that I follow…
Where I often find the most beautiful wisdom presented in the simplest of fashions.
This morning was no exception.

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/what-does-charismatic-despair-mean/

When I first read this morning’s posting’s title, with words such as Charismatic and despair…words that at first glance appear to be polar opposites of one another, I wasn’t prepared to find both a sweet reminder as well as an embracing
comfort all rolled into one.

I am reminded that as we each journey through this thing we call life,
we will each inevitably encounter times of great frustration, difficulty…
even overwhelming sorrow.

We will come to those places along on our walk where we find our pathway blocked
with the doorways, those apparent entrances beckoning us to continue forward, each shuttered and locked tight. There will be no obvious alternate path allowing for us
to continue onward, proceeding freely and unhindered.

It is at such a juncture on the path, where we are met by both doubt and despair.

Choice suddenly appears limited or even nonexistent.
Knowing we can’t progress forward and that we certainly can’t turn around,
going back from whence we came…for too much time has passed for turn arounds,
we are stymied. A rushing fear washes over us as we realize that we have
no other options, no choices.

And this is where we must look not obviously outward from ourselves
seeking our answers,
but rather we must look inward…traveling deeply within ourselves.

For it is in this very moment of inward verses outward, of how we will decide
to interact with the obstacles and locked doors,
which will eventually decide how we continue forward on our journey.

And so it is here, tucked gently away in this morning’s reading of simple words
offered by a simple monk, where we are gently yet profoundly reminded that
in our apparent despair, we are driven not by the seemingly overwhelmingness
of that very despair and its accompanying frustration, but rather by the divine interventions of the Spirit…
He who urges us, without our even being aware, to seek the only One who has
the key to unlocking those shattered doors, allowing for us to continue forward
on this odd little journey of ours.

It begins with a frustration or a pain or a sorrow and it ends with
an imploring prayer…


(the wisdom of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex from the book Remember Thy First Love)

After the fact

“…[W]hen death comes to a man, the mortal part of him dies,
but the immortal part retires at the approach of death and escapes unharmed and indestructible…
[I]t is as certain as anything can be…
that soul is immortal and imperishable, and that our souls will
really exist in the next world.”

Socrates


(sunset at Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

It is now after the fact…
The storm has come and gone…
the winds are minimal at best…and the seas are calm….
And it appears that our friend Socrates is on to something….

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father,
who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

John 10:28-30

it’s happened again

“Man’s extremity is God’s appointment”
Pastor Rasmussen, Danish Pentecostal pastor

“First God gives to us–
Then we give back to God–
Finally God gives back
again to us–blessed and multiplied beyond our power to imagine”

Lydia Prince regarding the story of Abraham and Isaac
from Appointment In Jerusalem

“I can only bless that which is freely yielded to me”
Lydia Prince hearing the words of God
from Appointment in Jerusalem


(Panorama of Jerusalem old city / Israel / courtesy the web)

Remember the other day when I was cleaning off the bookshelves and that little
book by that Franciscan Monk just fell out of the pile landing at my feet…
a book entitled, There Are No Accidents by
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel…

Well after I had painstakingly moved the sea of books that would not be going back
on the shelves into another room where I could spread them out, looking through
them, sorting over who would stay and who would head to the Goodwill,
I had to then move and relocate the books which would be staying down
to the basement.

Remember, like I said the other day, I was an art teacher for 31 years…
having minored in both history and art history who happens to have a keen
interest in Christian spirituality…
so there are books,
lots and lots of pretty, heavy, expensive books.
Books that I still love and want to hold onto but there is just only
so much room…

So as I was gathering up stacks to carry down the stairs,
another book literally fell out of the pile at my feet.

Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek and Lydia Prince.

I vaguely recalled buying the book while still teaching.
The copyright of this updated edition is 2005 but the original story was
actually written thirty years prior in 1975.

Why I opted to just shelve the book obviously many years ago, I don’t know,
but is seems as if Someone was wanting me to read the book, as in now.
And who am I to argue when I have most recently learned that there are
no accidents?

Curious I picked the book up off the floor and set it aside for later
so I could look over what the book was all about.

I started the book Saturday and finished the main original story Wednesday–
as I’m still picking through the added post epilogue to this newer edition.
Mind you, I’m not a fast reader but this story has been such that it has
totally captivated my thoughts and attention.

I was not familiar with either Lydia Prince, whose story the book is about,
nor her husband Derek, but I have since done a bit of research.

It seems the book has been very popular– for in 2005, over two million copies
were in print.
The Princes had a global Christian ministry that was going strong up to Lydia’s
death in 1975.

Just a quick bit of background as it is not the back story that has spoken to me
but rather the person of Lydia herself and of her voracious hunger for God.

Lydia was born in Northern Denmark in 1890, making her 6 years older than my own grandmother.
Lydia was also born into a very affluent family so she was never one to have to
fret over finances.
She was very smart and well educated.
She began a very successful teaching career in the Danish School system,
becoming a global teaching pioneer in what would be known as home economics.

Teachers were highly esteemed in Danish society and Lydia enjoyed the stability
of both career and lifestyle.
By her mid thirties, a fellow teacher had asked for her hand in marriage,
a union which most felt was a natural progression,
especially given the fact that Lydia was only getting older and needed to settle
down.

But settling down was not something she felt inclined to do.

This was during a time when Lydia had began questioning the scope and depth of
her life as a nagging feeling seemed to be engulfing her very being…
She kept feeling, thinking and finally believing that there was something missing
and something more to life..in particular…her life…
and she needed to find out what it was.

Lydia began an in-depth study of the Bible, even fervently praying as in actually
talking to God rather than simple prayer recitations.
Like most in Denmark, Lydia was Lutheran—with the Lutheran Church being the
state Church of Denmark, so to suddenly begin such a quest would be looked upon
as most odd.

Yet she had never felt particularly fulfilled with that aspect of life—
it was something that had been expected and she attended Sunday services
but as for “feeling” something…
that was all that was to it—simply attending a service, nothing more.

She began seeking out the counsel and even attending the services offered by a
local Pentecostal pastor.
The Pentecostal Church was something new and looked upon cautiously and
skeptically by the Danes.
Attending such a service was akin to totally losing one’s mind…
no decent Danish Lutheran would be caught dead attending a Pentecostal service,
let alone associating with Pentecostals.

But Lydia did just that…eventually receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In her small town and school, this new found faith of hers became nothing
less than a scandal.
She was threatened with termination.
Ostracized by her colleagues and students.
Even the Danish Government took up the case.

Her quiet simple life had blown up in her face…yet she was undeterred
and even found a peace in her continued pursuit of God.

She had given herself totally and unequivocally over to God and His directing
and there was no looking back

And such directing it was…

In 1927 she resigned from her teaching post as she now felt called to move
to Jerusalem.
She had no job awaiting her, no mission sending her, no backing from a church
and she had previously given away most of her life’s savings.
Yet there was no mistaking God’s direction.
Jerusalem it was to be.
She believed she was not to worry with any of the details…
not even fretting over not having proper funding because God would be
providing all– Lydia’s only responsibility was but to trust.

And Lydia might as well have been going to the wild west.
Because this was Palestine pre Israel.
A sandy territory under British authority with an uptick in
sectarian violence between Jew and Arab.
Living conditions were hard as well as dangerous….
especially for a single European woman in her late 30’s who spoke neither
Yiddish or Arabic and who knew absolutely no one in her soon to be new home.

However since the end of WWI there had been a steady inflow of Jews, from all over
the globe, moving into what was then Palestine, coming home as it were—
and this was something that the local Arab population
found gravely troubling…to the point of outright bickering and fighting
eventually erupting into deadly battles.

Yet both Arabs and Jews were equally weary of Christians as both groups had
suffered at some point or another at the hands of Christians….so
whereas Jews were unwelcome, Christians were even more unwelcomed.

I will stop here with Lydia’ back story—
saving it for another day.
As there is still a great deal more…
but for now I want to concentrate briefly on Jerusalem and the notion of faith.

I’ve written about the importance of Jerusalem before, and in turn the
importance of Israel, something that God has stated over and over and something
our family of Believers have most collectively and sadly forgotten or chosen to
disregard.

I’ve also explained how dangerous it is for any nation to turn it’s back on Israel…
for such an act is to turn one’s back of God himself.

This is all but spelled out throughout the Books of the Prophets…
throughout both Old and New Testaments.

And this is a fact that Lydia discovered and kept on the forefront of
her ministry for the remainder of her life.

Reading of Lydia’s pure unabashed dependent faith is now challenging me.

Her complete dependance upon God for every single need and detail shakes my
false perception of life’s security.

Her utter surrender of everything, holding nothing back…
from those she fervently loved down to her very life as nothing
was perceived to be an impossibility for God to attend to.

As the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac to
the God of all Creation…all because God said so…and knowing that Abraham,
obviously shaken and distraught over God’s request, still obeyed…
made such an impression upon Lydia that she too believed that there should
never be a time to ever deny or hold back from God whatever He asked for…
this as He worked to temper Lydia’s fatih and life within his
purifying furnace of Love.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Lydia’s century old story and
the subsequent story of her life’s ministry and caring for orphaned children.
And I know that I will be eventually sharing those here with you…

“And yet the truth is that God’s plan of peace and blessing for all
nations can never come to completion until both Israel and Jerusalem are restored—
and He expects us to be His coworkers in bringing this to pass.”

Lydia Prince / Appointment In Jerusalem

And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zachariah 12:9

history

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell


(drummer at Fort Mackinac / Mackinac Island, MI / Julie Cook / 2017)

The past several days in this country have been witness to a page out of some
sort of Orwellian novel.

The sad thing is….that this is not the stuff of fiction, legend nor lore but rather
sadly the stuff of our new sick and very sad reality.

I have not had time to properly process the latest madness taking place across
this land….
this land which is my land as well as your land….

There is much to say…
yet not until I’ve had the time to properly consider my words.

However for the time being…

Watching young people tear down, deface, kick and stomp innate statues that
represent moments or individuals from our nation’s history and not the
falsehoods that others now wish to project as incorrect and indeed false
in meaning, is pure and simple idiocy, both asinine and insane.

Question.

Do any of these angry, kicking and stomping young people work or attend school?
Because I believe that those who attend school, those who work,
those who need to work, those who want to work…
have so much more to do than scream, kick and destroy.

A fact.

It actually takes two to argue.

So was our President wrong when he said both sides in this latest brouhaha
were at fault?
If two groups are fussing at one another, yelling at one another, throwing
punches at one another…hating one another…..
I think that is indeed two sided…
as in two sides equally responsible, equally at fault.

Our history is a weaving…a woven tapestry of time, blood, struggle
and hope.

Some sections of the weaving are beautiful…
beautiful in pattern, color and texture while other sections are
a bit rough and tattered…
yet each section makes the entire full tapestry what it is…
precious.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

Isaiah 43:6-7

the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

Wrestling and prayers

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(falls in the Agawa Canyon Park / Algoma District, Ontario, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

I mentioned the other day that I was blessed with friends who are very wise…
Well as good fortune would have it, I had another wise friend has come along,
offering her own insightful guidance…
by actually offering a bit of wisdom in sharing.

She has passed along a link to A Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson
with the day’s thoughts resting on “The Wrestling Is Where the Bessing Begins:
(excerpt Aug 2, 2017)

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place.
It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when,
fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that
assured him of God’s presence on his path.
Now, in this latest nighttime meeting,
Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness,
it makes us work for a blessing.
This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us,
knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those
strange comforts of the wilderness.
Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle,
to be stretched to our limits,
to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

(http://paintedprayerbook.com)

And like Jacob, I wrestle.

I wrestle with this thing I claim as life.
My life.

I wrestle with my perception, my wants and my presumed,
as well as intended, outcomes…
I then wrestle with God’s intention for my life…
for you see, those two thoughts are not always the same…
His verses mine.

And now I’m finding myself prematurely and uncomfortably pushed away from
resting undisturbed somewhere, while just hoping to sit under a shade tree.
I sit trying to avoid the heat of day…the prickly weight that pushes down on my
head from not only what is mine, but what is all around me.
I long to avoid the unbearable heat generated by my own life’s struggles,
as well as the heated percolation found in the greater world at large.

And here I now realize that I must wrest the blessing which is to be found in
all of this…
Because as you see, we sometimes actually have to work for a blessing.

And yet…
in that one little fact…
that being that I will often times be uncomfortable and even struggle while
becoming exasperated to the point of near failure….
yet still….
I find that within the wrestling…resides pieces of deep spiritual comfort….

We are traveling today the 10 plus hours down to West Palm Beach, to south Florida.
Martha’s memorial service is Saturday morning, at her beloved little Episcopal
Church.

I will greatly appreciate your prayers for our travels.
It’s a long drive in uncharted waters so knowing that a Heavenly host
travels with us is indeed a comfort and a blessing…
one not wrestled over I trust….

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

To Rome and Jackie with Love

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Albert Schweitzer

CIMG0683
(photograph: skyline of Rome looking toward The Vatican,The Janiculum hill/ Julie Cook/ 2007)

Isn’t there something most magical about the Roman skyline?
Particularly the vista that is punctuated by the magnificent dome of Michelangelo’s engineering genius.
Are you aware that it is Roman law that no building may be built which exceeds the height of St. Peter’s?
I love Rome, as I’ve written before.
It is a city that is dirty, loud, lurid, raucous, serene, historical, artistic,
trashy, holy and very very real.

I’ve often mused that I could live in Rome…usually until I step in the mountains of dog poo which line the sidewalks or when I get a good whiff of the unmistakable stench of human urine wafting up from the stairways leading down to the Tiber River.
For Rome does have it’s flaws……

I cannot, however, think about Rome without thinking of a very dear friend.

I lost this dear friend today, Wednesday.
She actually died last night from a lengthy bout with cancer that seems to have plagued her most of her adult life.
A mutual friend and former colleague called me this morning with the news.
I had been receiving regular texts, as she had been rushed to the hospital
last week and was in ICU.
The texts were from one of her daughters who was updating the progress of her mom
as it seemed she was greatly improving daily.
She was only 78.

She was a colleague, mentor, friend, mother figure and a darn good high school
math teacher.
She was also the mother to two grown girls with families of their own as well as the former wife of a rather notable Speaker of the House….
who shall remain nameless as it is my place today to simply remember my friend.

She had battled colon cancer long before I had ever known her.
Her famous husband, or so the story goes, went to the hospital as she was
battling cancer and a life saving surgery, asking for a divorce.
That was the “hear-say” story, as she was not one to hang out the old dirty laundry—
and we always respected her for that and never asked for any clarification.

She never bashed him, never said a derogatory word, despite having much right to
do so giving to his philandering ways and the years of sacrifice she made for his
rise in the state then national political picture.
She always respected the fact that he was the father to her children and therefore…
we never talked about him nor of that former life.

It would be during times that this former husband, who would try his hand at
national politics, when her life would be examined in and by the press, once again.
Even though she wore the title of “ex” wife, she still seemed fair game for political fodder or so deemed our oh so pious media (please note the sarcasm).
Reporters actually sat outside of school, in the bushes and trees for a shot, even approaching fellow teachers for a “story”….
As we all did our best to protect her and her privacy.

The news was never flattering of her, describing her as the “ugly” one–
as she was the first of three wives.
How dare they!
She was a real woman, a real lady actually.. not one stretched to death,
augmented or starched who would then parade around Washington.
She was not a “trophy” to be lead around on a leash as if on show.
She was a beautiful lady.

I often thought of the qualities of Winston Churchill when I thought of my friend.
She was tenacious and fierce if need be—like a mama bear protecting her cubs
to the death.
She was like Yoda, a wise sage always full of the wisdom gained by a life lived
long and well.
She had known sorrow and sacrifice and hard work and was never bitter or sad.
Her body often betrayed her as she battled countless near death illnesses,
but managed to always have a new trip or adventure in the works while living life with chemo, radiation, hospital stays, neuropathy and lastly a stroke.

We’d never know when the cancer came back because she never really spoke about it.
She’d just be sick, fight, recover and run to another life adventure.
It was this friend that taught me to live life like there was no tomorrow—
as she herself never knew if tomorrow was promised to her or not.
A few years back, after one more physical setback,
once recovered as best as possible, she went sky diving.

It was this dear lady, this dear friend who knew of my love of Italy and
of all things Italian.
It was this friend who knew I had lost my own mom when I was young and who was
now struggling as a young wife, mom, and teacher…
She took it upon herself to befriend me and gently guide me through the often murky
waters of life.
I remember being devastated when she retired.
She was the old guard at school, the wizened sage who kept us younger teachers
in tow.
She made us laugh, think, fight and always do the right thing by our students
and ourselves.

Once she retired, we did not stay in touch as often as I had wished as our paths
simply diverged.
She now was hanging out with the other retired teachers while traveling profusely—
With Italy being the last big trip…

It was at the time when Pope John Paul II was quite ill and actually just prior to his death.
She told me she’d bring a memento back, something about him…
all the while as she encouraged me to go soon if I could–as she always found
travel to be one of life’s better teachers.
She brought me back a beautiful image of my beloved pope and I did manage to
make that trip a few months following John Paul’s death—
heeding her advice to go—always go….

I’d see her, from time to time, in Target or at the grocery store—
which just so happens to be the last place we actually talked.
Funny how grocery stores are so prominent in our lives.
She’d often frequented my husband’s business, sending me her “hellos”
via my husband.
Each time she’d come in the store, he’d come home from having seen her
with the latest story of the latest adventure—

After the stroke I recently sent a card to the rehab center in Atlanta
where she had been moved while working on regaining strength, speech and mobility.
I told her in my card that here it was, time for me to finally retire,
and off she moves over to Atlanta…
I was all ready to start our travels and would be waiting on her—
for her to get better and for her to be ready to go, once again…

Sadly, it looks as if she went on without me.

Thank you Jackie for everything you ever taught me—–
I will miss you.