Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017.12.21 A Death At Christmas

When someone dies near Christmas time people take it harder than at other times of year. Why is that? I suppose it creates an inner emotional conflict between joy and sorrow, between bright red and grey-blue. You know what I mean. We just have to feel both. God carries it all in one sacred heart, and good friends are friends or family who do not try to talk you in or out of your true feelings.

Christmas colors are bright red, gold, green. Christmas colors are also blue and black and gray. Simply so.

Today on the liturgical calendar is a day set aside to remember the apostle Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples. He’s known for being a doubter, but that’s poppycock. All he asked for was the facts, please. And Jesus, with deep respect, honored Thomas’s request. Simply so. Death is like that.

On December 18th, a friend of many years died. Everyone called her Glo. Some of her grandchildren called her GoGo. Her full name was Gloria Masterson Richardson. She had more than her share of tragedy in her 90 years of earthly life, and yet she remained cussedly independent, no, obdurate, yet never lost her faith in Jesus Christ and herself, and kept her sense of humor, which was epic!  As she was going in and out of her dying she quipped to me over the phone which the good nurse held to her ear: “Better stick around for the damn carolers!” That was Glo. She was a poet, a mentor, a sister in faith, and my first official writing teacher, not to mention heavy duty cheerleader.   

Glo had three wishes she hoped would come true before she died:
    -that she would be able to attend her grandson’s wedding;
    - that she would live to see her dear friend Catherine admitted as a Companion to the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a “community of women, Christ's disciples, called by God to a life of prayer, transformation and reconciliation within ourselves, within our Companionship, within our faith communities, and within the whole creation” of which Glo was a member;   
    -that she would live to see her first book, a collection of her fine poetry, published.

All three happened—no miracle just the facts and lots of loving help . . .
    Glo attended the wedding in a beautiful blue dress, which Catherine helped her buy—a comic adventure that ended in beauty. (Where is the bathroom in a huge department store—ever?)
    Catherine McGeary was admitted as a Companion on September 16, 2016. 
    Glo’s book of poetry, Currents, was placed into her dying hands by Catherine less than 24 hours before she died. Did she know it? Dying or not, no one misses the feel of a first book.

Here is one of Glo’s poems—a prayer of wisdom and serenity and courage.
    by Gloria Masterson Richardson

Open my heart, Lord,
so that I can be strong enough,
brave enough to surrender
to your healing love.
When I cannot say the words,
speak for me;
cannot trust, hold me;
cannot cry, weep for me;
cannot help, reach out for me;
cannot see the path, light my way.

And here is a poem I wrote for her as she lay dying.

Helplessly Hopeful at 90
    by Lyn G. Brakeman

The old lady poet
—never a poetess—
is dying,
wasting away before my eyes
and ears,
her voice stiffens
her chuckle flutters
her cheeks sag and pouch
her faith mellows.
She is dimming—
only a poem brightens her day,
engages her mind
delights her soul—
a poem or heaven
the same to her.

“I’m just moving on through it,”
she tells me.
No not yet, I think, and cry.

If I were God I’d say to her:
Gloria, you are a poem