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The sign is old, weather-worn, its letters somewhat faded, but again the invitation is extended:

 

 

No matter the overcast skies, the chill in the air—barricades close off the street to vehicular traffic, cloth-covered tables and folding chairs fill the cul-de-sac, and neighbors carrying hot and cold platters and bowls filled with choice recipes spill onto the sidewalk. Their steps suggest enthusiasm, camaraderie, and anticipation that new residents will join in on the fun around the brazier fire.

What’s unusual about this block party is its longevity. Established in 1973 by a handful of residents, intent upon creating a haven for their growing children, the annual gathering did just that. Within this ambiance they thrived, as well as countless others, in succeeding decades. Currently, ten children below the age of seven are blossoming; another attends high school and two in universities.

Such neighborliness has fused a tangible energy that still pulsates among the twenty-two brick bungalows that line Douglas Court. Like kaleidoscopes with ever-changing jeweled vistas, stories abound: babies, grandbabies, graduations, birthday and anniversary parties, holiday gatherings, diminishments, even deaths, each illumined by the waxing and waning of sun-years.

Such a privilege to have lived on Douglas Court for over twelve years! I’m so grateful—and there have been many signs.

 

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Seems that my long life is like a treasure hunt.

Once I stepped back from significant teachers and took stock of what I found, I began discerning clues about the Sacred in places I ordinarily would not have frequented, specifically my unconscious; its darkness, impenetrable. My loneliness deepened, my discomfort mounted, and questions spliced my resolve. Even more disconcerting were my dreams, like cattle prods urging me forward. With trepidation, one foot scaled that ravine; another trudged through brambles that bloodied my calves. Many dead-ends undermined my resolve to forge ahead, and yet there was no other option. There was always the next clue to discover.

Years passed. This was no child’s game. Annual retreats afforded me respite to consolidate my gains and give thanks to God. But then the struggle began afresh—Still another clue to discover. So what is this treasure that has attracted my being, from earliest memory? Once glimpsed, its allure only compelled more engagement.

Again, I look to the Gospels. Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a hidden treasure buried in a field (Mt. 13). Someone finds it, reburies it, then thrilled by his discovery, sells all he has and buys this field. He must have it. His life depends upon it.

Like the seeker, I cherish this treasure, tucked away in my depths. Lest I become puffed up by this discovery, the apostle Paul likens my humanness to an earthenware vessel (II Cor. 4:7), ordinary, and in time, cracks apart when no longer needed.

So the treasure hunt continues—My self-emptying also continues.

 

 

She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

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