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Novena to St. Philomena (Day 4)

 

No matter what your troubles are, and if you are suffering very much, St. Philomena will intercede for you in a special way and companion you on your journey. She never gave up. She will help you never give up either and follow Christ to the end. She may bring a miracle that is more than you asked for, or she might help you accept the martyrs’ crown, even with love and joy. She knows better than most that our tears become jewels on our garments in God’s Kingdom and that every one of our trials suffered with Christ helps us grow in the knowledge and love of Him.

Let us pray this passage from Psalm 18

Antiphon: With my God I can scale any wall.

I love you, LORD, my strength,

LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,

My God, my rock of refuge,

my shield, my saving horn,* my stronghold!

Praised be the LORD, I exclaim!

I have been delivered from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me;

the torrents of destruction terrified me.

The cords* of Sheol encircled me;

the snares of death lay in wait for me.

In my distress I called out: LORD!

I cried out to my God.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry to him reached his ears.

The earth rocked and shook;

the foundations of the mountains trembled;

they shook as his wrath flared up.

Smoke rose from his nostrils,

a devouring fire from his mouth;

it kindled coals into flame.

He parted the heavens and came down,

a dark cloud under his feet.

Mounted on a cherub* he flew,

borne along on the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his cloak around him;

his canopy, water-darkened storm clouds.

From the gleam before him, his clouds passed,

hail and coals of fire.

The LORD thundered from heaven;

the Most High made his voice resound.

He let fly his arrows* and scattered them;

shot his lightning bolts and dispersed them.

Then the bed of the sea appeared;

the world’s foundations lay bare,

At your rebuke, O LORD,

at the storming breath of your nostrils.

He reached down from on high and seized me;

drew me out of the deep waters.

He rescued me from my mighty enemy,

from foes too powerful for me.

They attacked me on my day of distress,

but the LORD was my support.

He set me free in the open;

he rescued me because he loves me.

Antiphon: With my God I can scale any wall. 

St. Philomena, our hearts sing when we remember your determination, your patient endurance, your trust in God, through which you obtained everything. We know you call us to practice the same virtues, to love God and to let him empower us. Jesus taught us that with God all things are possible, that we can move any mountain, and that for us, He will walk on water, command any storm, if we have faith and trust in Him.

With Jesus, let us pray:

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Our Father…

By your courage, open-ness to the Holy Spirit, by your purity of heart, and your faithfulness to the Gospel, you were a beautiful reflection of Mary. No wonder she visited you in your hour of darkness and gave you strength for the battle that lay before you. How beautiful she must have been to you, lighting up that terrible place where you were chained. May the Mother of Jesus give us the hope of our future glory, as we take on the battles in our lives.

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Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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Novena to St.Philomena (Day 3)

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St. Philomena’s body was found in 1802 in the catacomb of St. Pricilla in Rome. Her epitaph said, “Peace be with you, Philomena,” and showed the martyr’s palm, a drawing of arrows and an anchor; the instruments of the torture she had undergone for her faithfulness to Christ. Inside were the bones of a 13-15 year old girl. Present also was the phial of blood often collected by the early Christians when one of them was martyred. Miracles and signs surrounded the opening of her tomb, and even of the opening of the phial of blood that day in May, 1802, wonders which were witnessed by many.

It seemed God was saying to the world, “Get to know this young woman. She is very close to Me, and I have given her great works to do in My Name.”

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A Reading from the Book of Acts: 

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God

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St. Philomena, who spoke boldly for the Lord, Who bears witness to the Gospel through signs and wonders done by your presence, intercession and prayers, obtain for us the courage that comes from dedicated love for Jesus. Lead us to see the signs God lays before us. Bend our hearts to God’s purpose and will in our lives, that we may run lightly in his paths, that He may give freedom to our hearts. [Here talk to St.Philomena about your situation, your petitions, and your search for God’s will in the matter.] Help us overcome our difficulties that our lives and our victories may beear witness to all of the greatness of your intercessory power and of the beauty of Gospel.

Jesus, be in our very blood.

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Our Father…

St. Philomena, patroness of the children of Mary, strengthen our devotion to our most holy mother, that we may be her worthy daughters and sons, strong in faith and in following Jesus.  May our souls, like hers, magnify the Lord.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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Novena to St.Philomena (Day 2)

St. Philomena is the only saint ever to be canonized solely on the basis of her numerous miracles, some of them spectacular and public. She came to be called “The Wonder Worker,” and it was commonly said, “to St. Philomena, nothing is refused.” Among the countless people healed by her intercession is Ven. Pauline Jaricot who arrived at the shrine on the verge of death. She was dramatically healed amid shouts and rapping on the saint’s tomb from the crowd that was there. Philomena was St. John Vianney’s favorite saint. He talked to her every day, and had a small chapel built for the relic of her he was given. He encouraged devotion to her. Endearingly, he attributed all his miracles to her intercession.

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St. John Vianney and St.Philomena

 

A Reading From the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying:

 If we have died with him,
    we will also live with him;
 if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God

St. Philomena the Wonder Worker, reigning now with Jesus our King, we are in need of a miracle in our lives. [Here mention your request and talk to St.Philomena about the situation.] With faith in the intercessory power God has given to you, and by merit of the hardships you endured for the sake of the Church, help us on our way to salvation, and pray for us and with us for the miracles we hope to see in our lives.

Our Father…

St. Philomena, child of Mary, may the Queen of Heaven visit us in our unjust imprisonments in life, and heal our wounds, encourage us in our darkness, and give us hope of new life and of living out God’s will for us for His glory, as she did.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

 

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Novena to St. Philomena (Day 1)

 

Once upon a time in Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (in the third century), a young girl gave her life in witness to Christ under harrowing circumstances hard to imagine. She did this in spite of frightened parents, repeated and successively more cruel tortures, threats, and even persuasive words and temptations from those around her. She also spent some time chained, bleeding, and broken in the Emperor’s dungeon. There Mary is said to have appeared to her and healed her, strengthening her resolve with the promise of victory and the hope of Heaven. Some of her tormenters were converted to Christ by this child’s astonishing courage, faith and perseverance through punishment after punishment.

A Reading from from Book of Revelation

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God

St. Philomena, Virgin and Martyr, come and walk with us through our many sufferings. Pray for us that we may regain our strength, so that we, too, may be victorious in the purpose God has for us.

We know of your powerful intercession. By your obedience, humility, and trust, you captured the heart of Jesus. He worked in mighty ways through you in your life, and even more so now, He works miracles through you from your place in Heaven at His side.

Our Father…

Inspired by your courage and love, we ask you to pray for us for [mention your petition here.] Help us to live the Gospel so as to be a light before all that brings glory to God.  Comfort us with the consolation you yourself received from Mary.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory be…

 

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

St. Margaret Mary’s apparition of Our Lord with a visible Heart is known as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this image, His heart is on fire with His divine love for us, radiant like the sun, surrounded by thorns symbolizing His suffering and death, and topped by the cross, the symbol of His victory.

 

This is a very dearly loved image of Jesus, and one of great meaning for us. Jesus’ heart is the center of His being, the seat of His human consciousness, the abyss of His Divine love, mercy, and compassion.

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Jesus living within each of us has experienced our loves, humiliations, betrayals, rejections, our own sufferings, deaths and resurrections. We, living in Him, as His Body and Bride, the Church, have experienced His life, too. The Sacred Heart in religious art can also be seen as a symbol of this solidarity and union, this communion and humanity we share with Christ, as well as the mystical union we have with His divinity. More obviously it is a symbol of His love for us, all of us.

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I have to think,  in these dark times, during this epidemic of heartlessness, when so many seem determined to enrich the powerful and take away even the most basic of needs from the poor, the disabled, children, and the sick;  when Black Americans are shot for little to no reason, even in front of their little children, and at an alarming rate, and there is not enough love in our society to make it stop; when people are dying from gun violence and we can’t even hear each other enough to problem solve in a meaningful way, when every day we have to find ways to decompress from all the hatred and stress, when people who raise the standard of morality and compassion are undervalued, that it’s time to look to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What are we doing? The opposite of the Gospel.

We’re finding ways to keep our life, not lose it to love and compassion. We are jealous of our stations in life, we fight to keep our own privileges, our own rights and freedom at the expense of others. We fight  to be as heartless and greedy as we want, to not have to consider the pain we cause when we speak without compassion. We say we speak the truth in love when we want to justify our harsh talk that only turns others away from religion.

We need hearts. We need Jesus. We need the One who said, “Come to me, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

 

 

 

 

“Ask the Friend for Love.

Ask Him again.

Ask Him again.

For every heart will get

What it asks for the most.”  

~ Hafiz

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The Music Map

WheelchairAccessible-2Every day I try to get out with Mac if it isn’t too cold, too hot, or raining. We enjoy our walks together. I pray and sing and talk to him. Sometimes we are quiet, or he may express his joy…. or annoyance, as the case may be.

His wordless running commentary on life  can sound very much like any other monologue; or shall we call it “Mac’s non-verbal soliloquy?”

I answer him back as if I totally get what he is saying, as I often feel I do. I answer him as I would anyone else, “I feel the same way, Mac,” or “Tell me about it, Mac,”  or I act like I disagree, “What?! You’re kidding me!” He enjoys this. Sometimes he laughs.

Mac, besides being mostly unable to speak, is also blind. However he does respond to music, and music is a big part of our day.

Besides the recorded music we listen to, I have little songs I sing him, mostly simple little ditties I have made up over time that he likes and that I use for different parts of our daily routine.

Mac has very little sense of personal choice in his life, of course, since everything must be done for him. We brush his teeth, feed him turn him, dress and change him, move him and wheel him around. He can let us know how he feels, in his own way, and we care about that. But he has far less control than we do over the ordinary events of the day.

Routine helps him understand his life and know where we are in the day and what is going to happen.

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Mac

In general we think Mac understands a lot more of what’s happening than people might think, and perhaps even understands things we don’t. (By “we” I mean his family and myself.) However, anything we can do to help him have more control or understanding of  his life and circumstances, we want to do.

Since he is so responsive to music, I decided to make him a “map” of his neighborhood with songs.

What I did was simple. Every street has its own song. I made it a simple song, most of them rounds that I taught my kids when they were growing up; such as “Jubilate Deo.” Each has a short, jolly melody and a phrase that is repeated again and again, easily recognizable.

As soon as we turn on to a new street, I sing its’ song.

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If he is enjoying my singing, I sing the song for a while. If he makes the grunting, irritated sounds he makes when he wants quiet, I know to stop. I have informed him of where we are in our walk, and I can quit singing and let him listen to the birds instead.

Other times he crows with recognition and in participation with every song, lifting his chin to the rhythm of the music.  He likes when I sing, and I think knowing where we are gives him more freedom to feel like he’s on a walk, rather than just being taken around.

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photo by Maire Manning-Pauc

The street he lives on actually has two songs. One song is for when we are going away from the house, and one for when we are coming back. That way, especially on days when he is kind of grumpy or he feels our walk has been too long, he knows we are headed back in the right direction and he is more patient.

I see him calm down and quit fussing when I begin the song that means, “We’re on your street and headed back to your house.”

I have thought for a long time that he understands this “music map.” When I have experimented by singing the wrong song, he expresses the displeasure he often does when his routine is disrupted in other ways. This tells me he knows the songs for each street and doesn’t want me messing that up! Even when we take different routes he seems to know and recognize the street we are on and what song I should be singing.

I think that Mac does have a “music map” in his mind now. I think he has learned about his neighborhood more this way.

Mac is often mysterious. I may not be able to understand what he draws from the street-song plan of mine.  But he does “get” that each street has its own song and he knows what that song should be.

It’s one more way for us to connect and communicate.

That’s surely something.

And it adds more joy to our day.

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It could be OK. :)

Sun spills over my note book.

It’s so pleasant.

I could just stay.

My fish stops her revolutions of the tank,

And turns to look at me.

I gaze back at her.

We are in the same day together,

She and I;

Existing together

In an apartment

With some plants

Some art

and furniture,

a smiling Raggedy Anne.

I am tempted by this quiet afternoon

To rest among my books….

My few familiar things.

 Suitcase by the door…

I never sing anymore.

But here goes.

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Suffer me not to leave thee (a wife’s Pieta)

 

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After all three of us had called everyone we needed to call, another pot of coffee was put on.

I took a picture of Bob- beautiful and at peace with rose petals all over him, all over the bed.

Andrea had the idea that our closest female friends should wash Bob’s body and anoint him with oils. Amy had a set of Biblical oils (like frankincense, myrrh, calamus, cinnamon, onycha, spikenard, myrtle, etc.)  So she brought it over. Everyone was here except Nan, whose phone had been off that morning so far. Andrea got the tubs of water and pomagranite soap ready and Amy set out the oils. Bob was covered modestly of course.

I was caressing his face. His mouth was open and I said affectionately, as I often did (Bob sometimes would leave his mouth open when he was concentrating) “Close your mouth, Bobbi.”

I was drawn into the discussion over whether we should use spikenard or not because nobody really liked that smell too much. I said Jesus had been anointed with spikenard at Bethany and it was also in the Song of Songs. But it was not my favorite smell either.

When I looked back at Bob his mouth was not only closed but he had a little smile on his face. I asked the others if they had seen that. They looked and we agreed with wonder that he did have a little smile on his face.

 

Then solemly, reverently, Andrea, Jamie, Jocie, Amy, Shawna, and I together washed Bob’s feet, legs, arms, hands, torso, neck, head and face. We dried him and anointed him all over with oils and I also added in the blessed olive oil sent for healing from that priest with the gift of healing, and the oil from the lamp at St. Philomena’s tomb. I also blessed him with holy water as I did every day. Again I sprinkled rose petals over him.  I noticed the smile had gotten bigger. This was very strange and I took a picture. We all noticed and remarked on it.

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I knew that I needed to be alone with him, and I needed to be alone with him  for a as long as I needed to be. People were arriving and my youngest daughter, Roise, had to be told. She had spent the night at Jamie’s house. We told her in the front yard but she already had figured it out. She received the news solemnly, blankly – though tears sprang to her eyes briefly.  When I had woken up my oldest daughter, Maire, to tell her, she had looked angry and then blank. Neither of them felt like they could deal with seeing him. I said that was OK but they could if they wanted to.

I think I was hugged a lot. I don’t really remember those hours that well.

 

I thought of how saying goodbye to my first husband’s body had felt. That was a lesson in how not to have to do that. He was in a coffin, in an institutional setting, and people were waiting for me so they could close the casket; others waiting to take me home. It was horrible. I had been so strong through the vigil and rosary and talking to people and everything else but after I left Marc in that casket and knew I would never see him again I went hysterical and almost passed out. The only thing that had brought me out of that was hearing my four-year-old’s cries of terror as she tried to get out of the car and get to me.  I pulled myself together instantly.  It was quite an effort. This time I could be try to prevent that sense of trauma as much as I could. So I told people I needed to be alone with Bobbi and not to tell the funeral home to come until I said so.

I didn’t lock the bedroom door because I knew everyone would be frightened. I suffered some interruptions because of this. But I was aware that I shouldn’t scare the crud out of everyone. They needed to know they could get in here if they needed to.

Once the door was closed I got into the bed by Bobbi and I looked at him for a long time. I caressed him everywhere- appreciating in the most profound way how his body, beautiful to me,  was in so many ways an expression of his beautiful soul, of who he was, of his Bobness. John Paul II, in his Theology of the Body talked a lot about the nuptial meaning of the body. Bob’s body’s very design is for the spousal gift of himself – to me. And the Scripture says that a mans’ body is not his own but his wife’s and that the two become one flesh and one spirit. No wonder Eve was drawn from Adam’s very side.

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It was not that I thought of these things in a conscious way. It’s that I was experiencing them directly, intensely, since it was the last time I would ever touch him, my beautiful husband, my precious man, and because I was so flooded with memories of experiencing these things throughout our beautiful marriage.

I called him that – beautiful husband, precious man- as I touched him. I called him all the special things I always called him. I told him again how much I loved him, how beautiful he was.  I was peaceful inside during this time. I only felt love and deep appreciation.

It was not until I lay my body over his and put my cheek into the soft hair of his chest in my favorite spot- the safest place in the whole world- that I exploded into the abyss of grief and wept from some deep, dark, primal place- a horrible, wrenching, gutteral sobbing, “with tears hot and wild.” (Sinead O’Connor)  I was speaking but I didn’t know what I said. After a while I realized I was saying, “I love you! I love you! God I love you!”

The grief was a physical pain and no wonder. And I groaned with it from my soul. How can you be one flesh and one spirit with someone and not feel it in your very body and soul when the one you are joined with is taken away?

Maire, came into the room and stared down at us. Her face was a blank mask. I knew she felt traumatized and maybe the situation brought back the memory of my hysteria at the funeral home after the coffin was closed on her father, and I had been led away.

I looked up at her, my face covered  in tears and snot, my hair sticking to my  cheek and I said brokenly, “Maire please go. I need to do this right now. This is a very special time for us please leave the room. I promise I will be OK later. I just have to do this right now.” Finally she left without a word.

I held him. I kissed him. I kissed him over and over and all over him. I lay peacefully with him, looking out the window at the crucifix shrine in the roses, listening to the birds as I had done so many times when he was alive. I knew his soul was there in the room. That helped a lot. His love would make him want to be near me as I went through this. I trusted that love. I trusted that our union, in some ways, was unbreakable even by death, because it is a union of total love. We gave ourselves completely. And we learned about love from one another. I did think about that and was grateful for it as quiet tears slid down my cheeks into Bob’s chest hair and onto his face as I kissed him.

I held his rough calloused hands against my face. Hands that had held, caressed, and protected me, and also reached out for me in need or grasped mine in companionship and joy, or taken my own and pressed them to his heart.

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I was interrupted by Brandee, an old friend who was answering an inner summons to come to me. She did not even know Bob had died. Not even while she was in the room with me. That was strange. I don’t remember what she said or how I answered her. She went out of the room and I continued to be with Bob.

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I called Andrea to me eventually and told her I was ready for the funeral home to come. I was ready to get that part over with. I said please make sure my brother is nearby because I remember that part being traumatic and I may need help. So she did that. I clung to Bob. I waited. After some time Andrea let me know they were here. I said send them in.

The room began to fill up with people- family and friends. I started sobbing and I think I was a little hysterical- whatever that means. I saw the stretcher in the hall and a mild mannered, kind faced Hispanic man came into the room. I was sobbing and clinging to Bob and the man  started asking me what seemed like outrageously inane questions that totally could have waited. I thought  to myself that maybe this is how he deals with the hysterical people he no doubt encounters nearly every day. It worked. I sat up in the bed and choked back my tears, answering his questions.

Bob wanted to be cremated. He is Catholic. He had asked to be buried at Mt. Calvary cemetery next to my first husband. I already own the grave plot. He is a member of St. Thomas Aquinas parish and the funeral mass will be there. Fr. Wade of St. Thomas Moore in Round Rock would be presiding and Deacon Ron would be assisting. There were more questions but I don’t remember them.

 

Finally a young woman brought the stretcher into the bedroom and they prepared to move Bob onto it. There was some difficulty and Jon and Sedrick sprang forward to help. Mark did too.

Once on the stretcher Bob was covered up to his chin with a quilt the funeral home people had brought. We were each invited to say goodbye to him.

Maire and Roise were in the room and Maire came and put her head on Bob’s chest and cried a little bit before she pulled herself away, patting his chest one more time. Roise came and caressed his arm, crying, and said, “Bye, Bo Bo. I love you.’ She hugged him briefly. Other people too came and most put their hands on his chest in silence a moment. Jocie kissed him on the side of his head as she did always whenever she said goodbye to him. I think she said, “By Bobbi. See ya. “ I think we may have prayed the Our Father at that point and chanted the Ave Maria.

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I said, “Look at his face.” The smile was outrageous. It was unmistakable. It was huge. It was the biggest smile you ever saw. We couldn’t believe it. I took a picture of that too. It was truly amazing. And they took him from the room.

 

My brother, Mark got on the bed beside me and held me. My sister-in-law, Jamie, did too I think.

I was crying and I bet I sounded like a small child because that is how I felt. “Did I do OK?” I think I said. I don’t remember their reassuring answers and I don’t know why I asked such a thing. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how. Are you going to help me? I can’t do this!” They all said they would.

Andrea said, after some silence, “Shawn, is there anything you’d like to say?” I said, with passion that surprised me, “Yes. I want to say that I asked God, “Father, take this cup from me but not my will but yours be done. And that I took the cup  and I drank it all. With Bobbi. And I’m glad.”

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I was still crying when Deacon Ron got there to bless the Bob’s body. He was surprised Bob was gone already. But he stayed and led us in prayer first. He conducted a simple prayer service that involved the reading of a few Scripture passages and traditional prayers for such a time. And then we all sang. We sang “I love You, Lord.” We chanted the Ave Maria. And we sang the family song, “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. We were all delighted and surprised that Deacon Ron, though hailing from India, knew every word. Mark joked with him when we were finished, “Dude, you can’t sing. That’s OK. Neither can I.” My dad whispered in my ear, as people began to leave the room, “That guy in the long white robe looks Suspicious!” I laughed.

I don’t remember anything else from that day except that at a quiet moment Nan came. She led me into my room and got me into bed. She anointed me with oil. She sprinkled me with rose petals. As I had done for Bob a while since. So appropriate. Because that day I had died too. Or maybe I should see it in a more positive way. Being one with Bob I deserved similar attentions. Maybe I should try to see it in this way: That like Eve I was reborn from Bob’s side as he lay in the sleep of death with Adam until he should rise again in Christ who gave birth to His Bride the Church from his Heart pierced on the Cross. I was reborn into a new life as Bob’s widow to go forth from Bob’s side though still with him by Loves’ grace. This new life is yet to be discerned by me as to what it will be like and what path it will take. But God already knows. God waits for me until I am ready to walk again. Then he will show me where to go.

As I started to doze off I could hear Shawna and Mark talking in the kitchen but I didn’t know what they said. I was brought into sharp awareness when I felt suddenly that Bob was very close to me. I could almost expect to feel his breath on my face. “I’m complete now, Baby. I’m complete and I’m fulfilled. And it’s all because of you.”

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Do not press me to leave you!

Wherever you go I will go

wherever you stay I will stay.

Your people shall be my people

and your God, shall be my God.

  • All art is by my husband, Bob Chapman, who died of Brain Cancer in my and my brother, Mark’s arms on April 13, 2012
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The moon in my heart

 

 

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Thinking and dreaming and having tea with Mary

In the briefly blooming rose of evening.

We sit together silently, night’s growing darkness cloaking us,

Warm about our shoulders.

Through the window we can see the sun’s glow cascade ecstatically over the top of Howell’s Grocery,

Pour itself over the edge of the earth into space;

A passing caress over the other side of the world

As she turns on her axis.

We sit.

Mary’s hand touches mine,

The warmth of her tea cup still on her finger tips.

I sense her encouraging nod in the darkness.

She is with me.

“Remember,”

Says the brush her of fingers,

Remember day when you forget.

I am always with you,

I will bring for you the moon,

Reminding you of the sun

The deepest glow of God

Present in your heart.

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  • Sky photos by Renee Bork

 

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