Sometimes, I feel like the battered wife, always coming home for more, but I have the role wrong. I should not identify with the one being battered, I should identify with the batterer. How many times I have questioned fate, and blamed God for the present and past.; decisions I made, yet wanted to distance myself from.
I never fully considered the upside of “suffering” but after reading Janine’s poem this morning, I smiled. When I awoke this morning, I was intent on finding beauty today. I was intent on finding joy. I was intent on writing something uplifting this morning. I was intent on appreciating happiness. I found it in Janine’s poem.
We are always told to “Put yourself in their shoes” or “Walk a mile in their shoes” or some other iteration. And I have tried over the years to do just that. I recall sitting in court at 26th and California, listening to the public defender plea with the judge or jury as a death penalty was considered and begging for forgiveness. Those moments almost always made me think about how we choose our paths, and ultimately how our environments contribute to our behavior.
Acknowledging and accepting what we have; isn’t that what this day is about? A savior was born in a manger on Christmas Eve because his parents didn’t say no. Mary and Joseph didn’t cut and run. They didn’t resist, they humbly accepted the scene as God presented it, and what a gift they gave us.
My favorite story which makes me believe in fate is from January 1942 at St. Bernard’s Hospital. Patricia Craven and Dorothy Burns shared a room in the maternity ward. Patricia gave birth to Pasty, and Dorothy gave birth to Marie. The mothers would meet again 27 years later when Patricia’s son, Jerry, married Marie.
Some 28 years later, I was working as the Obituary Editor at the Chicago Tribune when Pat Carroll died. That morning I was not faced with my own mortality, but my own existence. What if my mom never became a nun and never met Pat? Well, like death, life is certain, too. I wouldn’t have been born, let alone working at the Tribune.
Sin was a big deal when I grew up. There were cardinal sins and venial sins. Committing a cardinal sin would land you in hell. My father had little tolerance for liars. He was adamant that liars are the worst sinners of all. If you are not truthful, you can’t be trusted. And if you aren’t trustworthy, well your life will be very lonely.
My mother nor I had finished reading the collection. That afternoon we read poetry aloud to one another. It was intoxicating. Short of her sharing in my daughter’s birth, that afternoon will stand as one of the best, most intimate, loveliest moments with my mom. Later that evening, she did it again, reading the poetry to a group of women, who were strangers not an hour before. I was reminded of the first time she took the pulpit and read from the Old Testament at St. Thomas More. Her grace, presence, and ability to project every nuance of those readings had me wanting to tell the whole church. “Hey, that’s my mom.” I felt the same way that night. And like many experiences this past year, I believed that book, and every poem bathed in Gluck’s own pain derived from her own divorce, was meant for me to read and to listen to.