I also found a hummingbird this weekend at a family gathering, that I was lucky enough to capture on film. The discovery of which prompted a family member to tell me that the tiny bird’s presence represents my Grandma Burns, which I loved hearing. Both the conversation on the train and the hummingbird are reminders that when we look and listen for life’s gifts they are aplenty.
We are a people of dreamers, innovators, crusaders, and more. Our principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness embedded with equality are absent when those who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting their fellow citizens and the vulnerable and youngest of our citizens who pledge their allegiance to this country every school day are shot down and killed.
I told her I don’t want her to live in a world where her vagina is a liability. How can a person who is essential to bringing life into the world be treated so poorly? This is a country where her gender means she makes 28-cents less than her male equivalent. A country where “equality” is a hollow word filled with adjectives like homophobic, racist, misogynistic, supremacist, narcissistic, ugly, evil, and wrong.
On this last day of the year, I could focus on the worst parts of 2017, but that’s foolhardy. Who wants to look at life half empty, when it is so full of promise? Not I. For that reason, I’m going to say goodbye to this year with love and admiration for the friends and family who brought me so much joy, so that I could return it. As I look ahead to 2018, I know in my heart and mind there is nowhere to go but up.
My Aunt Karen called me last night. And did we have a gab! I am named after her, a point of pride for me, and at some point in the conversation, we talked about our shared name. I love my name! I love how both Karen and Craven are two syllables and how each start and end with the same consonant sound. Before I even came to appreciate those things, I first loved that I was named after my mom’s younger sister.
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.
I’ve always wondered without journalism where we would be? What if no one photographed Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, or September 11, no one documented the Civil Rights Movement or Women’s March, nothing to intricately connect our shared experiences like fine Irish lace? Outside of our those shared experiences, each family needs its own history keeper. Each family should know its own truths. Who knew that when my mother gave me a Christmas ornament 24-years ago that its meaning was not so much about the trajectory of my career, but more about my role in this family, its history keeper?
Yesterday morning I spoke with my sister and shared my blues about being alone Christmas Day. Bridget will be with her father today, and I am not making Christmas dinner, which we’ve always shared with my parents. I was dreading being alone. In spite of my little pep talk, about subtracting “no” and “can’t” from my vocabulary, I was falling right into the trap I desperately wanted to avoid: Self-pity.
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.
I picked out a nicely wrapped gift. Once unwrapped my eyes welled up with tears as I discovered the contents. The gift made no sense to me. Just like Bridget and the cream cheese, I didn’t understand why someone would give a second grader an ADULT nail clipper set. Really? A nail clipper set? It’s been nearly four decades and I’m still befuddled and bewildered at the thought of that gift.
I’ve never heard a crime scene technician being called to a cleanup evidence of too much laughter. Instead, quite the opposite, real laughter can’t be contained in a steel shell, it’s explosive all right but it’s hardly selfish. Laughter is contagious and when shared eventually becomes joy. And that my friends, is the beauty of laughter. A laugh can generate a smile, that generates the feeling of happiness, that whether consciously or unconsciously is shared and enjoyed by others.
If I run, I can’t hide because everywhere I turn the word “journey” is there. I don’t know what’s happening in the universe, but I do know what’s happening with me here on this planet. Every day this week every acquaintance, every call, every meeting, every appointment, every class, every event, and every errand is another step in this journey.
Loss is manifested in an array of endings. I compared the end of my marriage in my 20s to death. In fact, I believed my reality was worse than death. Instead of asking God in the event of death, “Why did you take him from me,” I asked, “Why couldn’t he love me, and why wasn’t I enough?”
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.