Monday, March 29, 2004

Eighteen years ago I was introduced to the father of my boyfriend's friend. It was one of those 'doorman' introductions, the kind that parents like to get so they recognize the strange people coming in and out of their house. But with Richard it was so much more; he treated me as an equal, as someone who was worth talking to and not just as some kid's girlfriend soon to be replaced. Richard was like that. He and his wife often called to invite me to parties or plays even when my partner was out of state at college and their son had left home. They included our family in their celebrations and lives.

A few years ago Richard died after a long and painful illness. We were all hurt and sad and grieving but I felt that I could not grieve for myself because I needed to support and comfort the people who were closer to him like Richard's family and my partner. The appropriate time for contemplating all the parts of losing Richard's life seemed to get pushed further and further away from me. Until the funeral Mass. Here, in the familiar ritual, was the time and place and structure for celebrating a life and mourning a loss. We, corporately and individually, could remember how God was a part of Richard's life and how that life was eternal though the earthly part was over.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord; and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, of die, we are the Lord's.

We were lead by the priest to view a whole life coming to a natural transition (though not when we would have chosen it).

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The ritual of the Mass channeled my grief, it gave me a calm and familiar way to mourn the loss of a light in my life even while comforting me that Richard is still a part of the family of God.

Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we can not understand to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting.

And so we left the graveside with sorrow but also in joy and peace. We saw how our lives could reflect the witness he had been; how we reflected him even if we didn't mean to.

Almighty and everlasting God, we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of they grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their steadfastness in thy faith, and obedience to thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical body of the Son, may be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Grant this, O Father, for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dear Sonda,

I am so sorry about the turmoil you find in yourself and your community! It strikes at places in me that are still sore.

In these days we expect the racism and bigotry we encounter to be at arms length: crotchety old men muttering in the Metro, hooded strangers around a barn in Pennsylvania, red-faced families hissing at people gathered to commit themselves in love. We do not expect to encounter such hate and ignorance in our own community among our friends and peers. We know these people, we care about things in common, we have similar stated goals and then BOOM a casual statement reveals a fundamental difference.

I've recently left an online community, which I was active in for four or five years, over circumstances similar to yours (though not the same). The main problem for me was not the acts/statements themselves but the rallying of the community to wave away or minimize the offensiveness of them. I could, and had, addressed the ignorance and offense in the statements as they occurred but the statements increased instead of decreasing. Would you not expect that the fallacy behind the statement having been pointed out the person would see the wrongness of the statement and change? Why would someone continue to spew lies and hurt when they knew that the basis was false? When people said they were hurt by the statements why would a person keep hurting them? Why did people in the community turn to the hurt people and tell them they should understand that the person meant no offense and to take offense where none is meant is petty? And why, why, didn't the bulk of people in the community speak up in love and correct the misunderstanding that everyone felt this way and anyone who spoke against it was just being "Politically Correct". Is their silence complicity?

I couldn't stay there, even though I knew I would miss some of them terribly. I couldn't be quiet and yet my speaking up was causing strife and division and deep anger in me. It may be that I am cowardly and a stronger woman would have stayed and insisted on justice and love. I did what I had to do for my own well being. I was becoming less than an equal part of the community; I felt like the enforcer or a one tone bell.

Oh Sonda, I have no answers for you. I have no answers for me. It grieves me.

What can we do that is healing and turns the mind and heart? We talk, we live in community, we love, and we celebrate the good that we encounter. In my teaching days we called that positive reinforcement and used it instead of rewarding negative acts with attention. We can send flowers to random couples waiting to get married at City Hall in San Francisco; saying that we might not know them but we support their love and commitment and their right to marriage. We can back people up when they speak against bigotry of any kind. It does not matter that we are not part of the maligned group, what hurts one, hurts us all and if any of us are not equal then we are none of us equal.

Let us know how you are.