Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering Kathleen on her birthday

This is a special day. Today would have been Kathleen's 56th birthday. Today also marks my twenty-first year here in California. In the summer of 1988 I drove from Philadelphia to Torrance in hopes of marrying Kathleen. I arrived in time to take Kathleen to lunch on her birthday. I brought her red carnations and we had a lovely celebration. It was the beginning of a new and wonderful life.

Yesterday when I gave my talk on a "Nuclear Free World" at Grace Presbyterian Church, I told the group about Kathleen, shared with them her memorial booklet, and we had a time of silent reflection. Kathleen was, and continues to be, an inspiration for everything I do.

Kathleen has also inspired others. Among them was Leslie, a nurse in Dr. McGary's office who became very close to Kathleen during her cancer journey. Leslie attends Grace Presbyterian Church and is a beautiful soul. We had precious moments together sharing our love for Kathleen.

The talk at Grace Presbyterian went very well. 30-40 people atttended and were very lively. I told them about my experiences going to the nuclear test site in Kazakhstan with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. It was the most colorful, amazing experience of my life. When we arrived in Semipalatinsk, we were met by thousands of Kazahks, many in native costumes, many on horseback, carrying signs saying "No More Nukes." They had even erected a village of yurts to welomce us to their anti-nuke movement.

This was an historic as well as telegenic moment--the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that an independent peace movement had formed a coaliton with international peace activists.

Yet there was no news coverage. Peter Arnett, a CNN journalist, told me it wasn't considered "newsworthy." I told the group that's because the media doesn't take seriously what grassroots peace movements can accomplish. It pays attention only to "Great Men."

Yet most experts agree that the Nuclear Freeze movement, in which tens of thousands of Americans participated, influenced Reagan and Gorbachev to sign a treaty that eventually led to a 50% reduction in nuclear arms. People power matters!

To have peace, you need 1) a leader willing to take risks, and 2) popular support for such a leader.

We don't have a big anti-nuke movement today, I explained, but we have a sympathetic president as well as the support of conservative realists like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, Sam Nunn. We also have the support of Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, Glen Stassen and a group of Evangelicals who created the Matthew 5 Project, which calls for nuclear abolition and the negotiated settlement of disputes in places like North Korea and Iran.

I told my liberal Presbyerian friends that with such broad-based support, we could reasonably hope to abolish nuclear weapons, if we take political action.

The group was very jazzed and many signed a disarmament petition and vowed to contact their elected officals (and their pastor!). I felt as if I was among very enthusiastic Quakers!

After this talk, I had lunch with Rev Lee Carlile and her husband Don. Lee pastors Grace UMC in Long Beach and was presiding pastor at Kathleen's memorial. We had lunch at a Greek restaurant called Ambrosia, a family-run place with good food and a unique atmosphere.

We had a conversation that ranged over a variety of topics, from spirituality to politics. Don called my attention to an hilarious clip about health care reform which shows a group of conservative men and a woman staffer they keep referring to as "adorable." When the woman's foot catches on fire through spontaneous combustion, they call in the "private fire fighters" (since they are fervent free marketers). What happens next is too funny. See

Today I am getting ready for a trip to Northern California, where (God willing) I will attend Pacific Yearly Meeting's annual session. Among other things, I will be bringing two minutes on health care reform that I helped shepherd through my meeting and quarterly. These minutes call for universal health care, preferably single payer, and enhanced funding of health care to developing countries.

Along the way to PYM, I plan to visit friends and family. I hope to see my dear friend Gene Hoffman, my mentor in compassionate listening, who is now in an Atzheimer's facility. There are many others I look forward to visiting: Joe Morris, a leader of the Quaker environmental movement on the West Coast; Ellie Huffman, a dear friend Kathleen and I have often visited in Monterey; a Quaker woman in Santa Cruz who lost her husband of 20 years to cancer in April (I have never met her, but we both serve on the Board of Pendle Hill); Stephen Matchett, clerk of the "Western Friend"; and Marianne and Eric Sabelman, with whom I worked on the "EarthLight" book (Marianne had cancer and is doing very well, thanks be to God!). Last but not least, I look forward to having a play date with my dear nephew Edward.

I also plan to camp out at Big Sur in a campground my wife and I were very fond of. This will be the first time I will have driven up the California coast without my beloved traveling campanion. There will no doubt be poignant moments as I go to places rich with memories of my Beloved. I plan to bring her urn and scatter her ashes in some of these special places, as she requested.

My dear precious one, you are always with me...I carry you in my heart. As e.e. cummings wrote:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Several years ago, I read this poem during Family Night at Pacific Yearly Meeting. I hope to read it again to remind myself and others what love is all about.

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