April 26, 2001 (Stringfellow's birthday!)
We feel like going on: Between the loaf and the Alleluia
When all due allowances have been made for doctors and for medicine, it is when these mysteries - healing and love - are joined that, in fact, a miracle happens. What is involved...is a love of self which, esteeming life itself as a gift, expects or demands no more than the life which is given, and which welcomes and embraces and affirms that much unconditionally. I mean self-love which emulates, and, in the end, participates in, the love of God for life... Or, one can be succinct: life is a gift which death does not vitiate or void: faith is the acceptance, honoring, rejoicing in that gift... It is freedom from moral bondage to death that enables a person to live humanly and to die at any moment without concern. Stringfellow, A Second Birthday (1970)
Overheard to a friend around the campfire asking, "What is fire anyway?"
Lucy: "Well, I know it's glowing gas, but you can start out with just a little bit and everyone touches candles, and before you know it the whole church is full of light!" - cabin journal sometime after easter vigil last year.
To all wondering in their prayers: Jeanie is well. (But do read the P.S.)
A recent MRI was finally interpreted for us yesterday. The neurologist declared her a walking miracle. I'm not sure there's a formal diagnostic code for that one, but the actuarial oddsmakers at an insurance company would surely find it incomprehensible anyway. The pictures are essentially unchanged for nearly a year now. (This is not permission to cease intercessions, mind you, merely a call to mingle them with thanks).
She still has seizures, but even these have changed. They are shorter, less fierce, without extended paralysis, and seem to fall at liminal moments of transition. For example she had one arriving home from an exhausting plane trip - relinquished her bags, sat down on the couch and seized. Her most recent was at our community's Easter Vigil Liturgy. Our family had led the renewal of baptismal vows, with Lucy putting the questions and Jeanie uttering a prayer as pure, simple, and clear as water itself. Then during communion, we gathered about the altar at St. Peters. Just as she was passing the bread to Lydia and trying to say, "body of Christ," she seized. We laid her down in the isle and tended to her outstretched needs as people continued the service. By the time the cup came round she was sitting up and insisted on receiving. And speech returned to her as we sang the chorus of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" It hardly seemed a disruption. In an odd way the whole thing felt like a blessing. Integral and somehow sacramental. Another healing moment.
This week the Witness office in the old pharmacy at the end of our block, was finally closed. We had tried to find some other non-profit justice group with whom to share the space, but there's no parking lot and the prostitutes on the corner were a stopper. Julie Wortman came out from Maine to pack up the remaining essentials. The staff divvied up furniture, art, and supplies. End of an era. I worried that Jeanie might have an emotional passage. She did, but not the one I imagined. Walking up the street to a wine and cheese staff gathering, she sighed and confessed, "Well, it's going to be a relief not to be responsible for the magazine any more." It's really more than a year since she's done any work, but Jeanie's been carrying it in her heart more than I knew. (The magazine has been in fine hands and just won a passel of awards at ACP).
This month we finally applied for Social Security Disability. Jeanie's really been eligible for a year or more. But the Witness board and staff have been incredibly supportive, not the least of which financially. They indulged my procrastination while I suffered through an unfounded ambivalence. All this means Medicare and family insurance changes. These things too feel a momentous transition, although of a different order.
Easterweek we were intending to visit dear friends in Lexington VA and drive the Shenandoah with a view to vacationing en route. The day before, however, our transmission gave up going backwards - so we spent some gorgeous days instead at the cabin. Lydia organized an egg hunt (during the liturgically correct season when candy is 75% off). It involved 14 peace community kids, paths in the woods, two compasses, some riddles and a large ball of string (not to mention piles of chocolate). Thereafter, they spent hours playing a game I don't recall from my childhood called Nazi's and Jews. The only enticement I can imagine for being a Nazi was that they got to hold the tree house and spy out the landscape from on high. (Actually, one intrigue involved Jews only pretending to be Nazis).
In something of a similar vein, the girls have just completed their run of the Wizard of Oz with Lucy playing Dorothy and Lydia the Wicked Witch. There were enough sibling dynamics bouncing around there to keep their psyches busy for weeks. They both stole the show as far as their parents could tell. Actually it was at one of these early performances where Jeanie had a seizure during the curtain call (see what I mean about threshold moments?). In the final show, the curtain stopped functioning altogether about two-thirds of the way through. The cast never paused or dropped a line. They pushed props through and did the final scenes in front of the proscenium. One of their cousins in the audience never even noticed the problem. For all its difficulties, this one-man (and former vaudevillian) community theater operation does teach the girls that the show must go on. It does. With grace and flare. They improvise, collectively imagine, pick up one another's lines, and generally make do. As a life lesson I'd take it over higher production values any day.
Lydia recently wrote an experiential essay about her first day of Jeanie's crisis Labor Day 1998. We should add it to the website. It was solicited by an English teacher who has now submitted it in some contest. Her words win my heart. They're about how the world pivots on a phone call, changing your life. Landscape, inner and outer, rushes by in a race to the hospital. We do go on. Fast and slow. With an odd joy between the body and the alleluia. And we count it that same joy to share our lives with you.
All freedoms and festivities of the resurrection,
Bill (Jeanie, Lydia, Lucy)
P.S. After this was written last evening. Jeanie had a late night seizure. (No threshold here unless it be a dream). It was a big one. Todd's paralysis on the left, bedding to change - and yet she remembers it. Now this afternoon as I ready this for the net, she has another. Also long, though now on the right. I don't know what's up. But so it goes. And we with it.
P.P.S. I've added some new folks to this list. If you'd just as leave not get these periodic updates, please do let me know. If you're mystified and want to know the whole story or sample some manageable fragments, it can be got at www.thewitness.org under contact us/bill's journal.