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This room is for those who have lost a spouse and need support or who can provide support to those who have.

Saint Paula is the patron saint of widows and Saint Stephen is the patron saint of deacons
Learn More: Saint Stephen and Saint Paula

07/05/2012 new

Hello! I don't belong in this room, but I read it from time to time because I find a lot of wisdom here. Thank you so much for sharing. And special thanks to Andrew for mentioning Capercaillie - I'd never heard of them and they're wonderful :)

07/05/2012 new

(Quote) Andrew-865848 said: There is an old therapist joke... The patient just left the office, and the therapist is ...
(Quote) Andrew-865848 said:

There is an old therapist joke...

The patient just left the office, and the therapist is writing up his notes. "Patient hears voices in his head." The therapist sits back, thinks for a moment, and then continues writing, "Problem with patient is not that he hears voices, but that he is not listening to them."

Exactly.

Time to stretch, crack knuckles, roll neck back and forth, flex fingers, poise fingers over keyboard....


..wait...cue up the music first....ATB's "What about us?" www.youtube.com

we think too much, and listen to our hearts too little....

we think too much about what other people think...we spend too much time trying to be someone that pleases other people, and too little time pleasing ourselves. It's a paradox: there is too little selfishness in the world. Not selfishness in the sense of "I need more stuff" or the morally relativistic selfishness of our truly disturbed culture, but instead in the sense of taking time first to be healthy alone, to meet our needs first, to be comfortable in our own skin.

Love is not a race to find someone to distract us from ourselves.

If we think that we need someone to be complete, we're not listening to our own voice. And by our "own voice," I really mean being quiet long enough to allow grace to work in and through us.


We need to empty ourselves....we're not going to do that by posting obsessively to Facebook fifteen or twenty times a day...there you have the the perfect "look at me" narcissism of our culture. Facebook is too often some kind of robotic substitute for life. Putnam had it right in "Bowling Alone." We have lost the ability to come together as a community. My own church, Catholic as it is, is an empty shell of a community, with a small handful of people, perhaps less than 1% of the total registered families, doing 98% of the work needed to take care of the building and grounds, help the sick and the lonely, prepare the altar for Mass every week, and the million other things that need to be done.

Catholicism has largely succumbed to the narcissism of the culture....too many Catholics are saying, "I don't get anything out of Mass." And many of them drift away to the entertainment-based made up churches: Riverstone, NorthStar, cowboy church, TruePath, RightWay, all the pathetically comical names that grifter preachers dream up to attract the lost, using "contemporary" music and a promise that "God loves you just the way you are."

That's the big lie....if God loves us just the way we are, what was the whole scourging at the pillar thing about? If we are perfect just the way we are, God did not need to send his Son to die a horrific death on a cross.

We're broken.

We've always been broken, since the first day life was breathed into us.

Our job in life is to discover what God wants us to be, not to be comfortable with being narcissistically selfish.

where was I?

oh yeah....listening to the voices...we've come to a place where it is just too damned easy to drown out the still quiet voice of grace in our heads. I'm shocked at all the people, especially younger people, who walk around ALL DAY LONG with their earbuds drowning out the life around them. We've grown an entire generation of people hooked to some electronic device that drowns out not only the world around them but the sound of their own thoughts....and then they wonder why they are unhappy.

I love my music, and I love being able to take it with me, but I know it is not an authentic substitute for participating in reality, in being aware of the people around me, of having enough situational awareness to cross the street safely, of being able to see...really see the grandeur of creation.

The study of fractal geometry should be required of every Catholic. One of the constants that keeps showing up throughout nature is the 1:1.42 ratio, sometimes called the fractal constant. Leaves, rivers, crystals, marshes, coastlines, and many other parts of the physical world are organized according to this ratio. It's amazing once you begin to look around...God had a plan, and it was good. The entire universe, at some level, is organized according to a single number. And the atheists think this all happened by accident.

As much as I have resisted it throughout my life, God had and still has a plan for me. Looking back, I see it in every good and bad thing that ever happened to me. Grace is ever flowing through us, by us, and around us, but we have to be quiet to see it, to sense it, to listen to the still quiet voice of grace. Call it the voice in your head. But grace is quiet, and needs quiet to be heard.

One of the things that took me a long to understand is that God is a constant, just like the number 1.42. God is always in the same place, always waiting, always light-filled. God never gives up.

We give up.

We turn away from the constant. We turn away from the light. As we turn away and walk, we enter further into the dark. Some of us never find our way back.

So how do we hear? We hear by becoming quiet, and to do so, we have to unplug from wanting. We must empty ourselves to make the space and to create the quiet for grace to work.

St. Francis had it figured out. "It is in giving that we receive."

Put another way, there is no receiving without giving.

Ahh, there it is, finally. The point.

We become a willing receptacle for grace by pouring ourselves out, by emptying ourselves, by abandoning the "look at me" culture. We must, again paradoxically, become selfish. We have to stop expecting others to meet our needs, and start meeting our own needs--that's the selfish part. And we meet our own needs in part by giving, rather than taking. As I said, it's a paradox. It's the paradox of grace.

We find love by giving up on love. We find love by giving up on hoping someone else brings us love. We find love by giving up on thinking we need someone else to be complete. We find love by loving...right now, right this minute, by doing something, anything, for someone else. And the quickest way we find love is to right now, right this minute, do something loving for someone who cannot love back.

The paradox of grace again.

I have to remind myself constantly, "Give up on love." Nothing else works. The minute I start looking for love, I am lost, I am selfish, I have turned away from the light, I stop listening to the voice of grace in my head.

The old country Western song "Looking for love in the all the wrong places" was only half right. Looking for love is wrong, period.

Love finds us.

Love is a gift of grace, nothing else. Love is not a human emotion. Love is supernatural. We cannot make love, we cannot manufacture it. We cannot find it at Costco. The idea that we can find love comes from the devil, and is the root of the rot in our culture. We love our things too much....and the more things we have, paradoxically again, the less we feel, the less we are able to listen, the less we are able to empty ourselves, the less grace we receive.

If I stop looking for love, love might just find me.

Why do we keep looking? It is our fallen nature. Original sin is, I think, the idea that we can find love, that we can find love without giving in to God's will. Original sin is, I think, the idea that we can find love without loving, without loving ourselves and without loving others.

There is that paradox again...isn't loving ourselves selfish? That idea comes straight from the devil, and is ultimately our downfall.

God promises us that we are made in his image. If we accept that, then we should, we must love who we are. Not being able to recognize the goodness in ourselves is, at some level, a turning away from God. And if we are not able to love ourselves, then we are on the devil's banana peel again, looking for others to complete us, instead of recognizing our own supernatural gifts and completing ourselves by getting quiet, making room for the voice of grace, and turning towards the light.

Stop looking for love. Start loving...




















--hide--

Bravo, Andrew. This is beautiful. And spot on. Thank you for sharing.

07/06/2012 new

clap clap clap Thank you Andrew and Linda for sharing your strength, weakness, and faith. Philomena, welcome to the Fora--you absolutely should continue to post here--you are as worthy in your writing as the OP.

I have struggled with my own "alone vs lonely" quandry over the years, and find that "chopping wood and carrying water" works well! For me, it is nature that I feel completed--perhaps that's why I live in the world of John Muir and Ansel Adams.... However, I know that I am truly never alone, as I have my Lord and God with me every moment, and will ALWAYS HAVE HIM. biggrin It is MY choice.... rose

07/20/2012 new

Friday night. Am I alone or lonely? I forget, and it simply doesn’t matter if you have David Benoit’s I Went To Bat For You on the stereo (www.youtube.com that sax just blasting out a perfect pitch, the piano crashing along. I was out for a walk tonight, and I heard the song. Faint, but I heard it all the same. It vibrated down from the hills off to the west, no sound, just that perfect ultraviolet laser light, song without a sound, vibrating, vibrating.

I have been hearing the song often of late, usually in the early morning, when the mist is still on the hills and the sun is struggling in from the east. It has been a long time since I have heard the song so often. It means something.

The last time I heard that song was a long time ago, when the violet laser pulsed all the way up the East Coast to find me in the mornings, stuck in traffic, crawling to work. There were days when the sound was so strong that I had to struggle to keep from turning the car around and heading south. It was irresistible. It took me a year, fighting most mornings with the sound, but I left. Followed the song straight into the mountains.

Straight into the frozen waves of limestones, the slow tectonic waves that curl up into the ice white ridges. In some places the edge of those waves are just two feet wide, with an 800 foot drop on each side. Running the ridges is an exercise in caution, and I don’t run those ridges often enough. But they are close by, and sometimes that is just enough.

There was another time, even ten years earlier than the early morning ultraviolet laser light, when the song came in one sharp dream, over and over again. I was driving up a gravel road, winding up a deep shade hill, to some spot I could never identify, where I was adjusting the signal on a radio set, under a a green Army surplus tarp, the radio propped up on a folding table, me sitting on an old wooden folding chair. Hidden on that mountain, tuning the radio, trying to understand the signal. And then I would wake. Over and over I had that dream. Never understanding it. Until years later, when I drove up that hill to look at a house for sale, and I remembered, oh yes, I remembered the ten years old dream in an instant, a single sharp flash of cognition, all those dreams, telling me of my future. And yes, I lived on that hill long enough to grow into those hills, those hills that leaked water in every little hollow and curve of the mountain after a spring rain.

But tonight there is no dream, only the song, softly, softly, calling me into the hills. When the song comes something is happening. I can feel it. Have felt it, for weeks now. I had it, for a few days, and death walked in and I lost it. That’s what a death in the family will do. It stalls everything out, distracts, confuses, shades the clear, clouds the brightness. I’m trying to get back to what I lost. I had it. It was there, just a few days there, in the early morning, jacked right into the song, the words just pouring out. And then it was gone, lost in some slow grief that I don’t really feel on the surface, but must surely be grinding away underneath.

But it is coming back. On my walk tonight, I felt it, the bounce in my step. No, it was more than a bounce….it was a dance in my step. I walked down to the big field to practice my tai chi, half made up, half remembered. It didn’t matter, because the song kept focusing the deep purple light on me, and I was agitated. In a good way agitated. I could tell that some bolt jamming up the dynamos had finally sheered off from the pressure. I could feel the rust breaking loose, the huge shaft creaking from the built up pressure, the sluice gates beginning to open at the same time, rushing the water past the vanes, the dynamos spinning up, the massive weight of the rotors turning slowly slowly. Yet turning again.

God wants something from each of us, and too often we refuse to listen. I have too often refused to listen to the song of grace, yet God keeps singing. God is patient. And love is kind. Love has faith for all things, and love never falls in ruins. Love is what we all long for. It is our promise, our connection back to the Garden of Eden. Before we stopped listening. Back when we heard the song clearly, every moment, all the time, on all the channels of our sight, in every wavelength of pure light.

07/20/2012 new

Friday night. Am I alone or lonely? I forget, and it simply doesn’t matter if you have David Benoit’s I Went To Bat For You on the stereo (www.youtube.com that sax just blasting out a perfect pitch, the piano crashing along. I was out for a walk tonight, and I heard the song. Faint, but I heard it all the same. It vibrated down from the hills off to the west, no sound, just that perfect ultraviolet laser light, song without a sound, vibrating, vibrating.

I have been hearing the song often of late, usually in the early morning, when the mist is still on the hills and the sun is struggling in from the east. It has been a long time since I have heard the song so often. It means something.

The last time I heard that song was a long time ago, when the violet laser pulsed all the way up the East Coast to find me in the mornings, stuck in traffic, crawling to work. There were days when the sound was so strong that I had to struggle to keep from turning the car around and heading south. It was irresistible. It took me a year, fighting most mornings with the sound, but I left. Followed the song straight into the mountains.

Straight into the frozen waves of limestones, the slow tectonic waves that curl up into the ice white ridges. In some places the edge of those waves are just two feet wide, with an 800 foot drop on each side. Running the ridges is an exercise in caution, and I don’t run those ridges often enough. But they are close by, and sometimes that is just enough.

There was another time, even ten years earlier than the early morning ultraviolet laser light, when the song came in one sharp dream, over and over again. I was driving up a gravel road, winding up a deep shade hill, to some spot I could never identify, where I was adjusting the signal on a radio set, under a a green Army surplus tarp, the radio propped up on a folding table, me sitting on an old wooden folding chair. Hidden on that mountain, tuning the radio, trying to understand the signal. And then I would wake. Over and over I had that dream. Never understanding it. Until years later, when I drove up that hill to look at a house for sale, and I remembered, oh yes, I remembered the ten years old dream in an instant, a single sharp flash of cognition, all those dreams, telling me of my future. And yes, I lived on that hill long enough to grow into those hills, those hills that leaked water in every little hollow and curve of the mountain after a spring rain.

But tonight there is no dream, only the song, softly, softly, calling me into the hills. When the song comes something is happening. I can feel it. Have felt it, for weeks now. I had it, for a few days, and death walked in and I lost it. That’s what a death in the family will do. It stalls everything out, distracts, confuses, shades the clear, clouds the brightness. I’m trying to get back to what I lost. I had it. It was there, just a few days there, in the early morning, jacked right into the song, the words just pouring out. And then it was gone, lost in some slow grief that I don’t really feel on the surface, but must surely be grinding away underneath.

But it is coming back. On my walk tonight, I felt it, the bounce in my step. No, it was more than a bounce….it was a dance in my step. I walked down to the big field to practice my tai chi, half made up, half remembered. It didn’t matter, because the song kept focusing the deep purple light on me, and I was agitated. In a good way agitated. I could tell that some bolt jamming up the dynamos had finally sheered off from the pressure. I could feel the rust breaking loose, the huge shaft creaking from the built up pressure, the sluice gates beginning to open at the same time, rushing the water past the vanes, the dynamos spinning up, the massive weight of the rotors turning slowly slowly. Yet turning again.

God wants something from each of us, and too often we refuse to listen. I have too often refused to listen to the song of grace, yet God keeps singing. God is patient. And love is kind. Love has faith for all things, and love never falls in ruins. Love is what we all long for. It is our promise, our connection back to the Garden of Eden. Before we stopped listening. Back when we heard the song clearly, every moment, all the time, on all the channels of our sight, in every wavelength of pure light.

07/22/2012 new

I am throwing my life away. Literally. Well, some of it I am giving away; the car was stuffed to bursting for the trip to the YMCA Thrift Store yesterday. But for about six months, I have been sorting stuff, rummaging through boxes I have not opened in years, pulling stuff out, and getting rid of stuff. Too much stuff. So the big blue garbage bin gets wheeled out to the curb every week, heavy with the residue of my life and the lost life of my wife.

Twenty-five years. And more.

It is past time to break free from the chains.

www.youtube.com

There are boxes in the basement that have been moved from home to home, seven or eight times, without being opened. Why all the stuff? There are days when I think being a Trappist monk would be a relief, to have nothing but a robe and my prayers. The effort of owning is nearly incalculable. I own a house. And the house has a yard. And the house has a dozen rooms. And as many closets. And a garage. All filled with stuff. Stuff that has to be cleaned, dusted, arranged, moved, vacuumed, fluffed, sorted, stored, marked, labeled, organized, mowed, trimmed, pruned, weeded, and clipped. We do not own our stuff. Our stuff owns us. Less is more. Less stuff is more space for a new life. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

So I am throwing my life away.

I believe it is time to make space for the new. Out with the old. There is a certain quality of this throwing outness, a certain whisper, “Am I throwing out my deceased wife?”

Someone I was close to when I was twenty-three died a few months after we broke up. I was still in love with her when she took her own life. I got the phone call on a Sunday evening. I was alone when the call came; I hung up the phone, and I screamed like I had never screamed before. The awful horror of what she had done sunk deep claws in me.

I have almost nothing left of her, no stuff except a few old letters and some pictures. No stuff. And yet I pray for her still, thirty-two years later. She is fresh in my mind, down a long corridor, behind a door that still opens noiselessly all too often, letting out a deep sadness for a life lost, a lost life.

So do I need stuff to remember my wife? Not really. Which does not make it any easier to sort through her things, every little thing a memory. Every item is some faint echo of our life together. But it is also baggage. My life is a giant rolling carry-on bag filled with stuff that I have to drag everywhere. I want a smaller, lighter carry-on. I want something that has no wheels, that doesn’t need wheels, that is small enough and light enough that I can sling it over my shoulder.

You can’t take it with you. We die with nothing except our prayers and the prayers of those who loved us. So I am throwing my life away, one dumpster load at a time. I am making space for God to work his Grace in my life. And that is the secret, isn’t it? The things of this earth can leave little space for God to help us become who He wants us to be. Too much stuff gets in the way. Whether I like it or not, my old life, twenty-five years of an absolutely Grace-filled marriage, is over. My task now is too make space for God’s Grace. God knows that I need it. And I know that Grace comes only when we are open to it. And that means doing the hard work of making that space, of letting go, not just figuratively, but literally.

I am throwing my life away. Out with the old, in with the new.

08/07/2012 new

Oh, Andrew...you just brought me down to reality. I have a garage full and 1/2 a closet full of Dave's stuff - not to mention the shop downstairs. boggled I get stuck because there's so much. faint Thank God Dave sold his race car and trailer the year before he died. I know...one step at a time. Praying

08/07/2012 new

(Quote) Bernadette-605528 said: Hello! I don't belong in this room, but I read it from time to time because I find a lot...
(Quote) Bernadette-605528 said:

Hello! I don't belong in this room, but I read it from time to time because I find a lot of wisdom here. Thank you so much for sharing. And special thanks to Andrew for mentioning Capercaillie - I'd never heard of them and they're wonderful :)

--hide--
Bernadette -- you are indeed welcome in this room. We appreciate hearing from others who have input or comments even though they aren't personally widowed. Also -- this is not a restricted room, as you have found out by posting here.

08/07/2012 new

Andrew, it so true what you say about stuff! I found it touching. The bitter-sweetness of time marching on, rather we like it or not. The longing for those gone or the sweet memories of time past. Acquiring stuff seems to be a developmental thing connected with age and circumstances. At a certain age, the nesting age, one starts collecting and acquiring stuff to feel a sense of home or put down roots. That stuff starts to be a part of us and our identity. Then it becomes oppressive and we end up being held hostage in maintaining it.

After awhile, at a certain age, one wants to leave the nest and be free of the nest clutter. The sense of freedom from things that end up at yard sales, garage sales, Goodwill, thrift stores, antique stores, etc. Mortality hits us all in the face sooner or later. We realize that we might only have twenty years ahead of our time on earth. Some feel abandoned either through losing a spouse or through divorce. Some feel unwanted or abandoned by never being married.

We experience our own parents mortality and their collections of stuff and what to do with it. We look at our children and realize they will have to deal with our stuff and try to make it easy by getting rid of the stuff.

It started in my forties that I got rid of the stuff. I find stuff oppressive. Even fond memories can keep us in the past and prevent us from creating new cherished memories in the present. I want to keep it simple and not be weighted down and the keeper of stuff. I've moved a lot for my work so the burden of stuff keeps me from being any sort of a collector.

My memories of those gone are contained in a seashell given to me, or something small that will have to hold my memories.

I suppose all of this is a way of sliding into the final inning free and clean.

08/19/2012 new

I believe in lightning. The problem is that you never know when it will strike.

I am talking about the lightning of God’s grace. It comes on God’s time, not my time. As much as I think that I want or need something, it may or may not be what God knows I need. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Knowing, or not knowing.

I sat in a restaurant once, eating dinner. It was a seafood restaurant on an island in the Long Island Sound. I had some kind of spaghetti dish. I remember that there was too much spaghetti; I could not finish it all. But as dinner progressed, lightning bolts were shooting into and out of my chest, and across the table. After that dinner of three hours, I left the restaurant and my life had changed irrevocably.

Another time I had been resisting a major decision in my life for months. I went out for a run, back when my knees still let me run on concrete. Lightning struck me on that run, and I came back knowing what to do. I did it, and it was the right thing to do.

One time I stepped into a church, just to look around. I was surprised to discover Mass was going on, and it was just before Communion. I sat quietly in the back, looked up at an elaborate mural of Jesus on the ceiling, and a lightning bolt hit me. I was stunned. So stunned I sat there, immobilized, for half an hour after Mass was finished. I could not move. But finally I shook myself free from the paralysis, got up from the pew, genuflected, made the Sign of the Cross, and walked out of that church. And my life had changed again.

I was standing in the hallway of a college classroom building, staring idly at a cork bulletin board plastered with signs, notices, and posters. A lightning bolt shot right out from one of the notices, hit me between the eyes, and changed me, right there, on the spot. I ripped the notice off the board, stuck it in my pocket, dropped out of school, and left the country for six months. All because someone, at exactly the right moment, had posted that single sheet of paper on the bulletin board. The lightning bolt of God’s grace.

Oddly enough, lightning does strike twice. A year later, in the same building, on a different bulletin board, lightning shot out from a piece of paper, struck me, and I left the building changed, with another piece of paper jammed in my pocket. I dropped out of school again and left the country again.


Serendipity? Coincidence? Accident?

Grace. Just grace, the lightning bolt of grace.

In my twenties and early thirties, I wandered from job to job, discontent and a malcontent. People said of me, “He’s good, but…” I grew to hate that “but…” It was the kiss of death in the work world. There was no getting ahead with a “but…” hanging in the air at the mention of your name. There was no lightning for years, and I thought I was wandering. But God had a plan, and one day, driving to work, the ultraviolet lightning shot straight out of the hills, across five hundred miles, and found me in my car, driving to work. It hit me so hard that I had to struggle to keep the car on the road. I wanted to slam on the brakes, turn around, and drive south, to the source of that lightning, to the source of that grace. It took almost a year that time, a year that seemed interminable. But in the end, there was one more lightning bolt of grace that God had waiting, in that seafood restaurant on an island in the Long Island Sound. And as soon as the lightning bolt of grace hit me in the chest, my world collapsed, everything that needed to be done was done, and in less than two months, I was gone, gone south, to chase the lightning bolt of grace.

Today, I wait. I wait again for a lighting bolt. I pray for grace. And I wait, knowing it could be today, it could be tomorrow. It could be a year. It could be six years. I don’t know what God has in mind. And the only thing I can do is to pray, work each day, work with a servant's heart in all that I do, and give in to Grace, whenever it arrives.

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