Monday, October 22, 2012


Oh wow, seems like moments ago I was sitting by the Atlantic Ocean in Newcastle, NH with my sister "Little Meddy" aka Meredith (now 47, forever in my mind 8) looking at the moon and doing the post-mortem no pun intended on Mom's memorial, and now I'm in Dana Point, CA looking out as the sun sets over the Pacific. I really do think air travel...I'm not sure human beings were meant to travel that fast and that far in a single day.

Anyway, immediately on checking into my hotel I set out for a lengthy walk, coffee in hand, and took some halfway decent photos but it transpires I neglected to pack my USB cable or whatever it's called so I just had a Brown Rice Surimi Combo from Trader Joe's, cutting open the pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi packets with a pair of nail clippers, and now I'm eating a whole bunch of candy preparatory to figuring out what I'm going to talk about tomorrow to the good folks at St. Edward the Confessor who have hired me on to speak at their 9 to noon "Serenity Day." I mean I know the names of the talks, as I came up with them myself, but I'm kind of extemporaneous when it comes to speaking and so usually wait until the eve or day of and ponder and some kind of through line presents itself.

I have been overcome with waves of extreme sadness ever since leaving my beloved New England and have been traveling a lot and basically my mind is mush. Here's a delightful photo album or possibly slide show, I think you can watch either way, that my brother Roscoe compiled of my mother and our family. I mean I am really reaching here, obviously. The memorial was at the church across the street from the house where we grew up: a gorgeous fall day, with the maple trees on the town common, visible from the upstairs sanctuary, ablaze with color.

I saw so many old neighbors, old friends, friends of our family: dear, loyal, salt-of-the-earth people, many of whom had come long distances to pay their respects. Everyone, it seemed, had something: a sister who had just fallen down the stairs (again), drunk; a cancer diagnosis, a troubled kid, their own sick mother or father, a shattered heart. And then I came back, feeling like my own heart had been ripped from my chest and shredded. This is the way of the world and it's no use pretending otherwise.

The Cross is an ancient symbol. Expressed lyrically, there is cruciform structure to every pain, difficulty, and sadness. In this sense, the Cross is not an external object that belongs far away on a hill in Jerusalem. Rather, the shape of the Cross is internal to the human heart. Every heart has a cruciform shape.

When you look at the different conflicts in your life, you find that they are placed where the contradictions cross each other. At the nerve of contradiction, you have the centre of the Cross, the nail of pain where two intimate but conflicting realities criss-cross. To view the standing Cross is to see how it embraces all directions. The vertical beam reaches from the lowest depth of clay to the highest zenith of divinity, the horizontal beam stretches the breadth of the world.

The promise to each of us is that we will never be called to walk the lonely path of suffering without seeing the footprints ahead of us which lead eventually over the brow of the hill where Resurrection awaits us. Behind the darkness of suffering, a subtle brightening often manifests itself. Two lines in a poem by Philippe Jaccottet echo this: “Love, like fire, can only reveal its brightness / on the failure and the beauty of burnt wood.” There is consolation and transfiguration here. The fires of suffering are disclosures of love. It is the nature of the lover to suffer. The marks and wounds that suffering leave on us are eventually places of beauty. This is the deep beauty of soul where limitation and damage, rather than remaining forces that cripple, are revealed as transfiguration.

--John O'Donohue

Here's one of the songs we sang for Mom.


  1. Home so often has that crushing effect. One time we were returning 'home' from Home and I began to feel what I can only describe as 'estranged' then I began to hyperventilate, for real. Then MB pulled the car over and I walked around until the crush of Home eased enough to continue home.

    Not sure that makes sense, dear Heather but it is the best I can offer.

  2. What a beautiful hymn. I don't doubt your rendition was any less lovely.

  3. The way of the world, oh yes. Shredded. May you be comforted dear Heather, and be lifted to the heights of joy and laughter equal to the depths of your sorrow. and best of everything for your talk :))

  4. A shredded heart -- what William James called "Zerissenheit," "torn-to-pieces-hood." Praying continued for grace and healing to rain down upon you, Heather.

  5. Mother Mary will comfort you and remind you that our real "Parent" is God and your earthly mom was also a child of God, warmly embraced and loved, just as you are, forever and ever.

  6. Mother Mary will comfort you and remind you that our real "Parent" is God and your earthly mom was also a child of God, warmly embraced and loved, just as you are right now forever and ever.

  7. Oh, my, Heather. Thank you so very much for sharing your pain and your sorrow so beautifully. Praying for you . . .

  8. Oh, my, Heather. Thank you for sharing your pain and your sorrow so beautifully. Praying for you . . .

  9. 'Cling on'
    I like the John O'Donohue anam cara quote !


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