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“Beauty does not linger, it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think, and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful.” So writes John O’Donohue (1956 -2008), Irish poet, Hegelian philosopher, and lecturer who sets my spirit a-shivering.

The lakes and mountains of Connemara, West Galway, imbued Donohue’s fluid aesthetics with rich dynamism, order, and harmony. From his stonemason father and Uncle Pete he learned the beauty of spirit and work. Widely read for decades, he culled insights of beauty from classical and contemporary poets and writers and psychologists and braided them into his personal sense of beauty.

In 2004 he published The Invisible Embrace – Beauty, essays articulating this amalgam, now his own; its ninth chapter, “The White Shadow: Beauty and Death,” seized my interest. Given the Creator’s affection for all that is, superimposing the lens of beauty over the underbelly of life reveals a different milieu: pathos. What seems weak, exhausted, broken, stunted, and breathless, is much more.

Such truth scrapes barnacles from doubt’s poison, catapults despair’s insanity, illumines the dying process with hope, and releases headwinds of change—inherent within this new direction is its own intimacy with Beauty who O’Donohue identifies with the mystery of God. Such finding evidences his compassionate listening to the terminally ill and resonates deeply within my psyche.

My study and waiting continues. Happily, I have another companion in John O’Donohue who made his crossing during sleep while vacationing in Avignon, France. So simple … just like his life was among us.

 

Squeamish feelings laced my email to the Pastor of the College Church, requesting a Memorial Mass following my passing. A member since 1977, my departure thirty years later had been abrupt. There was this dream:

It is Sunday, at the College Church. Soon the Mass will begin. The noise is deafening: hundreds of parishioners chatter, musicians tune their instruments, and the choir rehearses. In the vestibule with others, I sit in my little red go-car, like the Shriners drive, and wait for the entrance procession to begin. With the signal, I rev my car and follow the one in front of me down the main aisle. Suddenly, my car veers off to the right, races past the others, makes a sharp turn at the sanctuary gates, and exits down the steps onto Lindell Boulevard.

 For months prior to this dream, I had been uneasy with the Sunday liturgy; it listed toward the theatrical, pumped me with excitement, and pulled me out of why I had come in the first place. The dream’s message seemed clear: Leave. It never occurred to me to speak with the pastor. In retrospect, however, the problem was mine.

Yesterday’s visit with Father Dan, however, reversed years of festering resentment, reconnected me with decades of worship that had sustained my chronic illness and pain, recalled old friends, and restored deep peace. “It’s not that often that I meet with the terminally ill who plan their own funerals,” Father Dan said handing me the guidebook he’d brought.

He understood far more than he thought. I’m relieved and grateful.

 

 

 

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