Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Love never dies": remembering Kathleen's graduation day

This week marks the fourth anniversary of Kathleen’s “graduation,” her transition from this life to the next. I often think of this life as a school where we are given opportunities to learn important lessons, mostly about love. That’s why I placed a “happy graduation” balloon at Kathleen’s memorial at Santa Monica Meeting: she passed her curriculum on earth magna cum laude!
 I began this blog five weeks after her death, as a continuation of the “Caringbridge” blog we started on our cancer journey. This blog also marked the beginning of a new life. In my first entry I wrote:

My new life will be devoted full-time to peace making and interfaith work, and to writing. And of course, to friends and to Spirit (last but certainly not least). I am very grateful to my Beloved that we saved enough resources so that it is now possible for me to realize my dream of being a full-time peace maker. In this blog I will write about all the fascinating interfaith and peace activities that are taking place in the Los Angeles area. Despite what you read in the newspapers, we are living in marvelous times and the Spirit is at work bringing people together and creating a new world in which peace is possible (if we are willing to work for it).

I hope that this blog will help to bring together some of the interfaith peacemakers in LA and provide a place where we can share our insights and concerns. And I hope this blog will be a source of inspiration and hope for all who read it.

Over the last four years, I have written 312 entries and had over 65,000 page views, and have appreciated the comments from many readers from around the world. It’s been a blessing for me to share my life’s journey with you in this way.

Last year Jill and I held a memorial service for Kathleen at Walteria United Methodist Church and established a fund in Kathleen's name to help the homeless and a children's program. Both missions are thriving.

This year, I wrote this letter of appreciation to Kathleen, who continues to inspire me to do my best and to be guided by the Spirit. I hope this letter reminds you of life's most important lesson: "love never dies."

Dear Kathleen,

It's been four years since you transitioned from this life to the next, and hardly a day goes by than I don't think of you with gratitude. What a huge difference you made in my life, and in the lives of countless others! And you are still inspiring me to make a difference....

I'm sure you're pleased that I am finally finishing the book on Howard and Anna Brinton that I started thirteen years ago. Five years ago we were supposed to go together to Pendle Hill, the Quaker retreat center where we met 24 years ago, so that I could finish this book, but God had other plans. I almost gave up on this project because of the demands of our cancer journey, but you encouraged me to keep at it. In the last few months of your life I had a spurt of inspiration and wrote 60,000 words, which read to you daily. The book is about a married couple who had a beautiful joint ministry, and was inspired in part by our marriage. I'm sure you're pleased that I have found another life partner with whom I use my gifts and talents to help others and glorify God. That's why I am dedicating this book to you and to my new beloved life partner Jill.

I'm also sure you're happy to learn that I have completed the Stillpoint Spiritual Journey program and have applied to become a spiritual director. Throughout our marriage you inspired me with your deep commitment to prayer and contemplation, and you planned to enroll in a spiritual direction program during our sabbatical year at Pendle Hill. I know you're thrilled that I am continuing to follow in your footsteps and seek ways to become more deeply centered in God, and to help others to do likewise.

Melissa and Shaun at Xmas event at Walteria 2008
I also know you're pleased that I am continuing to give support to our homeless friends Melissa and Shaun, who now call me their "Father in Christ." You were in ICU on Mother's Day when Melissa called me to tell me how devastated she was that she wouldn't be able to see her daughter. I sent Melissa a Mother's Day card and a hundred dollar bill to cheer her up. The following day, when you regained consciousness for the last time, but were still intubulated and couldn't speak, I told you what I had done and said, "That's what you would have done, right, darling?" You tightly squeezed my hand to say, "Yes." And that was our last communication in this life!

You taught me how important it is to befriend the poor, and to love them and treat them as family, and that's also what Jill is teaching me. We have a homeless handyman living in our home who is helping us in countless days, and is a real friend. It is a huge blessing for me to count among my friends people like Mark, Zane, and others who have sojourned with us. I'm sure you're smiling as I write this, remembering the wonderful but often challenging homeless people we befriended.

On this day I take to heart the words of William Penn, whose beloved first wife Gulielma died, and who wrote these beautiful words, probably with her in mind:

We seem to give them back to Thee, 0 God who gavest them to us.

Yet as Thou didst not lose them in giving,

So do we not lose them by their return.

Not as the world giveth, givest Thou, 0 Lover of souls.

What Thou givest Thou takest not away,

For what is Thine is ours also if we are thine.

And life is eternal and love is immortal,

And death is only an horizon,

And an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further;

Cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly;

Draw us closer to Thyself

That we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with Thee.

And while Thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place,

That where Thou art we may be also for evermore.

William Penn
1644 - 1718



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