Sunday, June 28, 2009

Deenie, at rest at last

Deenie died peacefully yesterday, Saturday June 27, in the afternoon, at her home near Boston.

The hospice had adjusted Deenie's medications and she was not in pain in her last days. She went gently, and as she has wished, in a familiar and comfortable environment. She was just two days short of her 70th birthday.

I have limited internet access but wanted to post this quick note, with thanks to all of you who prayed so generously for Deenie in intercessions that encirced the globe and embraced this noble spirit, friend, worker for justice, intellectual, and loving human being.

All is well here. I have slept and rested a lot, attended the joyful Bar Mitzvah of a dear friend's son, and done some work (there is more to come) on a Big Theological Tome. Went to a glorious gospel-music Mass today and sang and clapped and felt and heard the Spirit. Not that She doesn't speak quietly too, She does -- but She must sing out and so must we.

Happy Pride Weekend to friends in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and many other places. Thinking of you with love, pride, hope for a welcoming world, and commitment to making it so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On the road again

I will be on the road again for a while, about ten days, while Maya Pavlova enjoys her friendly cat-sitter. It's a bit of a theological expedition. I will have some e-mail access but I don't guarantee any blogging or Facebooking. Still, you never know.

Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast to that which is good;
render to no-one evil for evil;
strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honour all people;
love and serve the Lord, '
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Blessings of summer to friends in the Northern Hemisphere, blessings of winter to those in the South!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thank you for your prayers for Deenie

Just got an update. (See post below for earlier episode.) Deenie is staying at home. Her lawyer and friend (same person) intervened and did some diplomatic and firm persuasion with the health proxy relative. Thanks be to Godde.

If she goes somewhere besides home at some point, it will be a hospice facility and not that nursing home. But for now, she's not going anywhere.

Deenie was weak but awake today, not entirely coherent, but asked for a bit of food and ate it.

Our mutual friend writes: "So, dear friends, please keep praying for a peaceful passage, and for caring and justice on the part of all around her."

Illustration of Miriam the prophet and her companions, copyrighted, by Bonnie Cohen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Deenie update and a note on health care proxy

It has been nearly four years since I moved to North Carolina and I have yet to get a new health care proxy. Don't do what I have done. Take care of this now. Even if you are not old, you may find yourself incapacitated and need someone trustworthy to make health care decisions for you. Many of you have probably been through health care proxy / living will / durable power of attorney (note: these three are not the same thing - consult your state law) conversations with aging parents or ill loved ones. I know our family has had these conversations. But have you dealt with this for yourselves? I have been remiss in taking care of this.

Laws vary state by state. Consult the law for your own state. Those of us who are single and with no adult children need to pay special attention to this. Who is the best person for a health care proxy? Is it a relative or is it a friend? Pay attention to the relationship's long-term dynamics as well as to the person's values. You may also write very specific directives. Not all medical situations are the same. Again, check your state laws on this, talk to a medical professional, to your lawyer, or your clergymember or counselor if you feel more comfortable starting there. This post does not constitute either medical or legal advice. (It does constitute Auntie Jane's advice based on life experience and thirty-five years in ministry and other professional work. The link above will give you a basic definition of a health care proxy and health directives.)

All this to preface the news that Deenie's situation is not good at all.

Thanks, by the way, to Helen --in the comments to the previous update --for all the information. Helen, I can't really give all the details of the primary caregiver and family situation. Suffice it to say that it's not as functional as you would want it to be, so your suggestions, while very good, do not exactly apply. And now the situation is about to change drastically.

Against all advice from the hospice and all pleading from Deenie's friends, the family member who has health care proxy for her has decided to move Deenie from her home (where she has a paid caregiver plus friends who visit all the time plus a good neighbor who is a friend and pops in regularly) to a nursing home on the other side of the city.

(Note to Helen: Deenie is no longer capable of making decisions for herself; she is too weak to oppose other people's decisions.)

This family member was not the original person who had the health care proxy. The original person found him/herself too far away geographically, so Deenie changed the health care proxy, picking this particular family member, we are not sure why; perhaps she hesitated to burden a friend, even though her friends are in many ways her family.

The nursing home in question is not a hospice. It is not set up to help people die comfortably and peacefully and in a loving and serene setting. Our friends have done some research about it and it is not an adequate facility. Deenie has always said --as she did when I visited her and she was still compos mentis-- that she wanted to die at home, not in an institution.

Our mutual friend is trying to see what she can do before tomorrow and has gotten in touch with a family member who is truly devoted to Deenie and is also trying to reach Deenie's lawyer of many years (who is terrific) in hopes that one or both may be able to intervene somehow.

The situation is messy and cruel. Our friend writes that she prays Deenie will die before this move can take place against her wishes.

Deenie's 70th birthday is next Monday.

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,

whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,

and the glory of your people Israel.

My soul gives glory to my God.
My heart pours out its praise.
God lifted up my lowliness
in many marvelous ways.

My God has done great things for me:
yes, holy is this name.
All people will declare me blessed,
and blessings they shall claim.

From age to age, to all who fear,
such mercy love imparts,
dispensing justice far and near,
dismissing selfish hearts.

Love casts the mighty from their thrones,
promotes the insecure,
leaves hungry spirits satisfied,
the rich seem suddenly poor.

Praise God, who loving covenant
supports those in distress,
remembering past promises
with present faithfulness.

God of all consolation,
grant to those who sorrow
the spirit of faith and courage,
that they may have the strength to meet the days to come
with steadfastness and patience;
not sorrowing without hope,
but trusting in your goodness;
through him who is the resurrection and the life,
Jesus Christ our Saviour.

(That last one is from the New Zealand Prayer Book.)

Words of theological wisdom from Ivone Gebara

From the Brazilian ecofeminist Catholic theologian Ivone Gebara:

I find myself in the grip of a strange feeling that will probably shock my readers. I should like to "rest" the earth I live on and the earth I am so that other things can be born. We live at a time when our life patterns, our paradigms, our theologies, and our spiritualities are tired. We are asking too much of our creativity in trying to deconstruct, re-create, redeem, and insert other traditions into ours. Would a time of pause not be an advantage, a time of personal and perhaps even collective silence? Would it not be a good idea to "rest" so that new ideas that could guide our steps, the fresh shoots that will feed our hopes, might in fact emerge? We live in a whirlwind of ideas, of difficult situations, of tribulations and violence of all sorts. It seems that no one is being understood in this vast Babel! It seems as though we are in a collective war, trying to survive at all costs by eliminating others.

This situation makes me think of the biblical story of the Flood. The raging waters have swallowed everything, but in the midst of them floats an "ark" preserving all different species of life. There had to be hope, perhaps hope over a long time, before the dove could fly out from the ark and return with a fresh branch, a green shoot, the sign that new things were happening. I take this myth in the form of a parable not in order to insist on the destructive nature of our actions in the century just ended, but to say that perhaps we have to keep quieter, perhaps we have to look for fewer "spiritualities," so that values that are truly vital can emerge in our lives. I fear that our anxiety to appropriate a feminist spirituality may be vitiated by so many events that destroy us physically and our cultures that we shall not be capable of actually touching the human roots that sustain our existence. Without realizing it, we are beginning to seek to appropriate in a feminist form the elements that mattered most in the masculine spiritual tradition: witness, martyrdom, holiness, imitation. All these still come very mixed in with the masculine models of a patriarchal Christianity of domination and conquest which, although it has helped thousands of people, has also been an instrument of oppression and destruction of as many others. I believe life is inviting us, for a time, to a certain "suspension" of new spiritualities, to a patient wait for what will come, to a voluntary silence or greater care with our words and our theories. We should not be in a hurry, or we shall find ourselves simply using the same discourse "feminized."

In this sort of "retreat" from theological babble, we should be preparing ourselves, I believe, for a strategy of accepting the newness that is being begotten in the depths of the earth, in the depths of ourselves, a newness full of surprises and still imperceptible to our reason. It is a sort of collective begetting, a hazardous pregnancy with no definite birth date. We are in a time of waiting, experiencing anxiety and even dread at what might arrive, intervening with care just so that life may be respected. All we can do is to protest, through organizations and outside them, at the massive destructiveness that continues to threaten our hopes of life. All we can do is be grateful for the chance to caress our daughters, sons and grandchildren, hoping that our longing for love and solidarity can be the food they receive from us today. But we still cannot even stammer the name of the new forms of hope waiting. There are just the things that sustain the humanity in us: friendship, affections, solidarity among all, waiting for the new day that will come.

I believe that this is the only possible way forward in a situation of flood and darkness. People need to feel in the first place that there are hands guiding ours, that there are hearts beating with ours and moving beyond the old divisions. We need to know that there are others dreaming with us of a better world. History has shown that this time of waiting in solidarity has in fact existed before and is still in existence. In the near future it will be capable of proclaiming that some fragile "green shoots" can now be glimpsed. And life, all forms of life, will be able to flourish in the farthest corners of the earth.

Ivone Gebara, "Feminist Spirituality: Risk and Resistance," trans. Paul Burns, in María Pilar Aquino and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In the Power of Wisdom (London: SCM Press / Concilium, 2000), 41-42.

Photo: Atlantic forest landscape at the REGUA Reserve, Brazil. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deenie update

Deenie is still alive, sleeping a lot more, weaker. She had a bad moment of panic the other day. The hospice is still not being helpful; they've now given her liquid meds but she really should be on a morphine drip at this point.

Please continue to remember Deenie in prayer as she slowly takes her leave. Mary, Mother of God, hold her in your arms.

Panagia Eleousa

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Juneteenth!

Happy Juneteenth!

Did you know that 31 states now celebrate Juneteenth as a state holiday?

More on Juneteenth at the other blog, with a link to a website entirely devoted to Juneteenth and a somewhat different perspective by a historian from Duke University.

Happy Birthday, Aung San Suu Kyi

We do not forget you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Listen up! Howard Zinn, once again, with a healthy reminder to the citizenry

I quoted Howard Zinn and referred people to his "Election Madness" essay during the presidential campaign till I was blue in the face.

It won't hurt you to re-read that essay. Seriously.

Previous related posts on this blog:here and here and here and here.

Now Zinn has a follow-up for all those of us who are starting to gripe about the President and the new administration. Once you have read the essay to which I refer above, read the follow-up, "Changing Obama's Mindset," which just came out.

Same message: It's up to us. Politicians, even the most exciting of politicians, are still politicians. We're the citizens. We've got to act. End of speech. (Mine. But read his, it's better.)

Both are essays were published, on paper and online, in The Progressive, where Zinn is a columnist.

More on Howard Zinn here. One of my heroes.

By the way, his A People's History of the United States has now been adapted for young people (with Rebecca Stefoff).

Tolle lege. Or if you want the Anglican version of that: Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.

Photo by Roslyn Zinn, nicked from the Zinn Education Project.

Prayers for Deenie, who moves closer to death

The friend who keeps me posted on Deenie's condition writes that Deenie is getting weaker and is in greater pain. She says that Hospice has not been on the ball with the pain meds. Presumably she is now advocating for better palliative care. There is a private aide on duty with Deenie at her home, originally trained as a nurse on another continent, and she is great. Another friend says Deenie feels ready to go. She knows we are praying for her.

I had been thinking of Deenie more intensely the last two or three days and was not surprised to receive this news.

Deenie received the anointing of the sick from the Hospice chaplain a few days ago in the presence of several friends and a neighbor (who is also a friend). Today two women will visit her, including a mutual friend of ours who is a poet -- very glad she will be there, as she will be able to find the right mix of song, word, and silence.

Please pray in accompaniment of Deenie as she moves into her final days and hours.

Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort her with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for a Person near Death, The Book of Common Prayer

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Love's Trinity

It's always like this: I pop in to say I'm not blogging and then I blog.

I ordered John-Julian, OJN's translation of Julian of Norwich, with commentary by an Associate of the Order of Julian of Norwich named Frederick Roden, and today the book, Love's Trinity, arrived from Liturgical Press. Info and lavish praise here.

For those of you who don't know, OJN is the Order of Julian of Norwich. Yes, we have our very own contemplative order inspired by Julian in the Episcopal Church. Fr. John-Julian founded it in 1985 in Greenwich, Connecticut. Its monastery is now in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Both monks and nuns live there.

On a related note, this week I rejoice in the ordination to the transitional diaconate of my friend Deborah Brown in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, New York. She is a former Diocese of North Carolina resident (canonically and otherwise) now living with her beloved up there in the snow belt, where said beloved got a professor job a year ago. Deborah is an Oblate of the Order of Julian of Norwich and as such is committed to a regular practice of silent contemplative prayer as well as daily Morning and Evening Prayer.

I have no time to "read for fun" right now, but I will make time to savor a little bit of Julian every day now that the book has arrived. I am looking forward to this spiritual nourishment and happy that John-Julian, OJN has helped to provide it, and that Dame Julian's words have survived into our day.

At this same time that I saw this sight of the head bleeding, our good Lord
**showed to me a spiritual vision of his simple loving.

I saw that He is to us everything that is good and comfortable for us.

***He is our clothing which for love enwraps us,
*********holds us,
****and all encloses us because of His tender love,
************so that He may never leave us.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* *** * * * * * * * * * * He showed a little thing,
****the size of an hazel nut
***in the palm of my hand,
***and it was as round as a ball.

I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought:
***"What can this be?"

And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is made."

I marveled how it could continue,
***because it seemed to me it could suddenly have sunk into nothingness
*******because of its littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding:
****"It continueth and always shall, because God loveth it;
****and in this way everything hath its being by the love of God."
In this little thing I saw three characteristics:
***the first is that God made it,
***the second is that God loves it,
***the third, that God keeps it.
****************************************from Chapter 5

Iran, cont'd

Plenty of women out there apparently.

See photos at Paul's, also at The Daily Dish. Photos here from (Boston Globe site).

Good point here about grains of salt re: the Tweet reporting and context. As the daughter, sister, and sister-in-law of foreign correspondents (and as a professor who gives all her classes a handout called text and context for use throught the semester) I have to agree.

Still, the cyber-reporting and -activism are vital to what is happening after the election fraud and coup. Also youth and women, apparently -- the youth part no accident (remembering the late 70s and the "Death to the Shah!" cries of young men).

More later -- writing deadline looms.

Live-tweeting the revolution

Thus reads a headline on Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. The new world of news. See that particular post here.

The Daily Dish homepage is here. Almost wall to wall Iran coverage since the election.

Meanwhile, U.S. television news (so I hear - I don't watch it) barely covered the Iranian elections aftermath on the weekend. I think they've caught up by now, but not in detail. I gather the reporting by the networks is even more shamefully awful than usual.

I've gotten most of my news so far --in snatches, in the car and the kitchen, because I am hoarding my writer's time-- from NPR. Haven't had, or taken, the time to supplement the bits of radio with reading, online or off.

I just took a five minute break from peaceful nighttime writing (yes, I had a late afternoon nap and an early evening walk) to check Andrew Sullivan's blog, which I don't usually read, but which has almost wall-to-wall Iran coverage including from Twitter. (I don't Tweet, either, but am struck by the use of Twitter in reporting from the grassroots.)

I wonder what Iranian women are doing and thinking. When the news talks about "Iranians in the streets" it means "Iranian men." The photos of street demonstrations show men. We do know that women voted in great numbers this time and are more than 50% of the voting population. Who is writing about the women?

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm still here, just writing...

... and editing, in those rare summer moments of quiet and solitude of which I get so little during the year.

Also mowing the lawn, griping about muggy weather, and enjoying being with my cat and my congregation again.

On Saturday, I chaired my last meeting (as Chair - I'm staying on the committee) of the Bishop's Committee for Racial Justice and Reconciliation of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

And then of course there are naps. And the bureaucracy ye shall have always with you.

I still plan to write here about Halifax, about which I continue to think fond thoughts.

Patience, my turtledoves.

Hiroshige, "Tree of Good Writing." More info here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Third U.S. Sikh-Catholic Dialogue Retreat


I get all kinds of ecumenical and interreligious news in the (e-)mail every day and this was one of the more interesting articles to hit the inbox. No, I don't read them all, but I like to receive them nevertheless. I am a religious news pack-rat.

So here is the article on the Sikh-Catholic retreat.

I knew Francis Tiso, the head of the Catholic delegation to the retreat, because we overlapped at Harvard Divinity School for a year during our M.Div. studies. Back then he went by "Frank" and he wasn't anywhere near getting ordained. He went to a contemplative community with Brother David Steindl-Rast after graduation, not as a monk, but as part of an experiment in contemplative living. Interestingly, he is a priest of an Italian diocese. He also did doctoral work in Buddhist studies.

Francis Tiso and I also overlapped when I was in the Bay Area and I had no idea we did. Sounds like someone with whom to have an interesting conversation.

The BBC has a good overview of the Sikh religion, with resources, here.

To learn more about Sikhism and Sikhs in the United States, go to the Pluralism Project's website, and see the section on Sikhs here.

There were quite a few hate crimes against Sikhs immediately following 9/11 because Sikh men wear a turban and their attackers assumed they were Muslim.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back from Boston and Halifax (to the tune of Cole Porter)

Halifax Public Gardens

I am back safely from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and before that, Boston. I intend to blog about some aspects of my trip. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, happy birthday, Cole Porter!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Deenie and Prayer Posse update

I visited Deenie yesterday for two hours. After some good weeks, she has begun to feel weaker and more sluggish. This new phase began two or three days before my visit. Her energy is lower than it was. She does, however, have all her marbles, but she is on heavy painkillers and that slows her down. We talked in catch-up mode, for the most, until a few minutes before I took my leave.

After those last few minutes of conversation, the kind you would expect from friends who are seeing each other for the last time, and hugs and kisses, I said to Deenie that the Prayer Posse and I were praying for peace for her. "Make it come quickly," she said, looking at me intently.

She meant, of course, that now that she is on the decline --which she had said explicitly earlier in the conversation-- she wants death to come speedily. I commend her to your prayers, that her end may be gentle and as swift as she desires. She has been a true friend to many, a wonderful aunt and godmother, a sharp intellect, a woman of deep spirit, and a lifelong worker for justice. I am not sure whether she will live to see her 70th birthday in July. I give thanks for having seen her alive on this visit.

I have had a rich week in Boston, staying with Parents of Acts of Hope at their retirement community but also managing to get into the city (sidewalks! public transportation!) and see a few friends, though not all the ones I'd hoped to see. I haven't had time to blog (I may yet, from the airport or before or after the conference, in snapshots) and am off to Halifax at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a four-day conference. Links to details of the conference in this post if you are interested in theological matters.

Adorable Godson update: Thank you for your continued prayers. The Adorable Godson (age 24) is back at work and at summer school, though of course he still has many weeks of healing ahead. He is recovering from the assault and fall and getting out and about as the leg and crutches allow.
Pablo Picasso: Dove with Olive Branch (1950)