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Twelve days into the structural collapse and later demolition of the North and South Chaplain Condominium in Surfside, Florida, the stories still seep into psyche like fine silt, sated with grief. This is too much, we gripe. Not this!

Denial, however, cushions its full impact for those close by and elsewhere. True, death has always been around, especially in our violent, disease-ridden world. But the magnitude of the Surfside disaster mirrors the sights, sounds, and smells of a war zone, comparatively few have experienced. 

Only today did I remember a response to all of this—the psychologist Dr. Edith Fiore who presented highlights of twenty years of research in her study, The Unquiet Dead (1987). Numerous afflicted clients flocked to her counseling room, complaining of unusual symptoms, likened to loved ones, snatched by death, “like the thief in the night.” Under therapeutic hypnosis, Dr. Fiore relieved these disorders and helped the too-quickly-dead in their transition to the next life; their unpreparedness had led them to become earthbound and seek a host body.

Later today, I listened to Samuel Barber’s Adagio of Strings (1938) that peaked in a luminous interlude, the strings shimmering in light: it felt like spirits rejoicing in their ascension. God does have a way of working things out …

Let us remember the Champlain Tower victims, especially those stuck in transition, and their loved ones in prayer.

It’s Halloween, again, a night of spooks, scary lights, and eerie bumps that break through the veneer of the preternatural, skewered by ultimate strangeness. If unprotected, terror ensues.

Such fascination in the preternatural has seized artists’ imaginations from all times, including the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. A chronic alcoholic, his musical genius must have been darkened, his concentration splayed as he struggled to make sense of the madness consuming his spirit—So much so that he succumbed to an early death, not without his friend Rimsky-Korsakov sprucing up his unfinished works and accrediting them to him.

One of these was his early tone poem A Night on Bald Mountain; it premiered in St. Petersburg, 1886. A terror-inducing otherworldliness assaults the audience as the witches’ ritual on the bleak mountaintop begins; their intent, to conjure up the devil. The blistering, grating, scoffing score triumphs in the nakedness of evil. Breathless, cringing, clammy hands break apart the ordinary. Rubbing eyes does not help.

However, after ten minutes of such nastiness, there is resolution of some kind: a calm glassy sea, in my perception.

So no matter what seems to disturb us, whether in dream or daylight living, there is a response. Even Mussorgsky found his way out, not without leaving behind musical compositions still played by symphony orchestras around the world.

“How dare you get ahead of me! I’m next! I’ve got the number to prove it!”

“I don’t like that kind of bread. Don’t you have any like the stores sell? Sliced?”

“Give me that bag! I saw it first!”


Voices overheard at Grace United Methodist Church’s food pantry, Tuesday morning. For the second time since being open, their shelves were emptied, and the volunteers had to close early.


“This year, I’d like the Heritage turkey and cranberry relish, and some of your yummy mashed potatoes. Enough for fifteen.”

“I didn’t know you did all the cooking! A great relief! Give me the works!”

“Will you recommend a choice wine to go with the dinner I ordered?”


Voices overheard at Whole Foods Market, Tuesday morning. The clerk smiled taking the orders. 


Two vignettes of hunger: one from desperation; the other from affluence. Yet such hungers reflect deeper ones, physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, gnawing at our innards, whether anguishing over food stamp cuts or marveling over Wall Street’s 16,094.83 on the Dow or stewing on any situation in between.


There is an indisputable Source of replenishment. We have only to ask, on our knees.


A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and all you hold dear in your heart.






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