What Is The Church?

Within the building a musty odor clings to the air,
There are cracks on the ceiling,
The nave has been closed for years
because so much of it is unsafe.
Every penny we have goes to the roof
and all other repairs.

But I remember running through the balconies,
Sunday school lessons with many children
My father’s rich voice from the altar –
and others before and since,
the beautiful organ with all those pipes
and the music it stirred within the soul.

Couples have married here, babes baptized,
countless communions, church dinners,
fairs, thrift shops, and food pantry days.

Now the congregation as dwindled
so many being in their elder years
members for thirty or more years
wanting to die here as they lived here but
the organ is silenced – no money for repairs

What is a church really?
A place of worship
or a place to be worshipped?
A place for the few
or a place where the few
give to many – spreading the faith
that has brought them such comfort.

We may be the few now –
but God and his grand plan
are calling us – asking us to listen
to the depths of our hearts.

To know that just as Jesus died on the cross,
disciples were executed and exiled,
and even today, some Christians have to hide
in the woods, basements, away from prying eyes,
to practice the religion- without books or other paraphernalia
– we have been privileged to have this building.

A church need not be a fortress
holding people in, keeping people out.
Imposing, Magnificent, Intimidating.

Jesus authorized his disciples to go forth
with just the clothes on their backs,
taking nothing with them as they
proclaimed his message to the world.

But we would not get far
with these boards and mortar on our backs
our voices would be crushed by the stones.
Jesus said take nothing.

But a church is not a building, it is the people
and what those people are doing
to strengthen their faith
and to make the hard decisions.

What would Christ have us do?
That is where Christianity lies.

Prime Time

Sometimes words need to be spoken.
Not for posterity or fame
but to be one voice in the vast wilderness
of the cacophony of noise.

Perhaps I’m so shell-shocked
because of my traumatic brain injury
and bipolar issues . . .
the need for silence, surcease of pain.

Still, I need to be with people,
ones who understand,
who don’t question me
or condemn my behavior.
Perhaps in limited doses –
but it is essential to me.

Prime Time gives me that.
No judgment, no shame.
Friends and guides . . .
ones to help me down my path
to remind me there is one
and I have a necessary place on it.

Saying Goodbye

As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that my  Mom
has died against the woman I knew. She was a force to be
reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quintessential
matriarch. I hurtled myself at her thousands of times yet
she stayed strong, unwavering. A mother. I didn’t realize
how much I would miss her until now when its too late.
The woman I saw on Monday evening was not the woman
I knew in this life. Her spirit was gone and we all knew
how much a woman she was.

She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I
needed, definitely more than she should have. She encour-
aged me to be a strong woman . . something that was an
inside job for me but not often an outside one. There was
no way I could fill her shoes – One sister is the mirror
of her and fit to walk in her shoes. My other sisters and I
were either more like my father or fierce individuals.
I was her antithesis.  

But even in this I defined myself by her measure.

 My sisters and  aunt and I stood around her hospital
bed and solemnly swore we wouldn’t followed the
same health choices she did. We agreed we would be
closer to each other. Some of that has come true,
some not.

 After she died, I moved to California to be close to my
children. I just didn’t realize they would not feel the same
about me.

My medical issues soon made a burden to my son.  My daughter
was out of the country.  Finally, I realized I had to go back to Con-
necticut  to be where family could help me out when needed and
where I was wanted.

In the course of looking for a new apartment, I had the opportunity
to stay in my  mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and
the things  that comprised it. My anger slowly dissipated, as I
could feel hers do and we made peace.

Our relationship had always been a tough one. A reason
I moved to California was to put as much distance between
us as possible or I didn’t think I would survive.  She was a
remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too
angry to  see all the remarkable things about her.

I miss her, I have grown and I think she would  be proud
of me now.

Family Relations

IN THE FINAL PARTING

Looking back from this not so distant future,
The bed and its occupants glow –
All anger and distrust and hurt gone –
for now, this period of time;
gentle voices, soft laughter and tears mingle freely.
washing away old animosities at this time of parting.

In the face of the task –
to ease this frail, overused body
to relinquish its claim on the radiant soul within
all else fades

Caught up in the normalcy of daily living,
time rushes past and we fail to hear
the heart’s true message from one to another.

It is only in this parting, so full of pain and sorrow,
that such pettiness can be lifted.
His life was dedicated to healing hearts –
and in his final hours, he defies expectations,
and created a surcease of souls’ angst
intertwining embittered hearts and bringing peace.

DNA

When as little children,
we received those admonitions,
shaming reproaches, spankings,
picking our own switches for crimes committed
do our unborn young
still recessed in inner cavities
flinch from that wounding?
At which point is the DNA encoded,
decreeing that one child be victim
to another’s aggressor?
Such fools are we to believe
our actions are harmless
when our unborn
carry our legacies
before they are even conceived!

Battle of the Bulge and 9/11

Winter During the Battle of the Bulge (1944-1945)

,This poem was written by Frank Whitmarsh. It, and the one following seemed particularly appropriate to today.

After a day’s combat
I still see these scattered bodies in the snow
Lifeless wax statues
Newly cast Venus de Milos
Expressions frozen for eternity
With their nascent moments of fear and panic
Or maybe love
All to be stored in Death’s locker room
Like unaccompanied baggage.
Could these be models for
Some future Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Paris
To be gawked at by the hordes
Of indifferent tourists?

March 15, 2015
Inspired by my experience during the Battle of the Bulge in
the Ardennes – Winter 1944-1945

Reflections on Where I was on 9/11

9/11 was one of those cataclysmic moments when
time seemed to stand on is head. In years to come,
we would ask each other where were you on 9/11 – or as
an earlier generation might ask – where were you on
12/7/41 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and
WWII was about to begin for the U.S.

As for myself on 9/11, I was leisurely walking down
the streets of Paris when I heard the news on television.
We raced to the television on time to see the second
tower collapsing with our first thoughts naturally being
the safety of our loved ones.

Who, why, where, when became our collective
stunned amazement.

One of the things that struck me was the outpouring
of affection that the French had for the Americans. We
were all together and the spirit of Lafayette prevailed.

Frank Whitmarsh

As for me, living in Connecticut, with young children, I saw the entire
horrific nightmare again and again and again.  My family and friends
would point out details the others might not have seen.  There was a
shock that rippled through the entire country.  No one really felt safe.
We, in our insular, isolated country found out yet again how easy it
really was to touch us.  The fervor of patriotism stirred and all I could
do was feel grateful my children were too young to engage in the
battles about to ensue.  I wanted to volunteer, to give my best, but
respiratory issues kept me away from Ground Zero. And increasingly we are finding the enemy is within – we need look no further than out our doors.
God must be shedding huge tears watching the nightmare below.
I honor those that lost their lives that fateful day. And tremble for
the days to come.

Pheromones

A friend once said
he is a creature of raw abandon,
exuding sexual pheromones
like an animal marking his territory,
making her want to grab him by the hair,
pull him into an alley
and do it to him, raw and hard.

I laughed but lacked understanding,
refined tastes had I
no primitive animal
was going to pound his way into me.
Give me the esoteric, the spiritual,
the “nice” guys who grovel,
always asking first before taking,
like children before the candy jar.

He offered soft whispers of desire,
I turned him down,
politely saying I was not
of that mind.
A massage said he,
to soothe raw nerves, undo your knots,

Well . . . . . . . . .
undid the knots did he,
one moment coolly professional,
the next changing in rhythm,
leaning over to kiss sacred places
others usually need to be led to,
in raw flesh games.
and offered a slave bracelet,
made himself – a beautiful, expensive trinket,
no matter, I’ll just make more.

My knots untied, no said I –
offer again when it is not payment
for services rendered,
in dark rooms, atop tables, in primeval
urgings and lustful moans.
And dressing before it might begin again,
I scurried to my car, breathed a sigh of relief
as I drove away,
his guitar serenading
the roar of my engine.

Confusion and Hope

I , watch their faces, see their broken bodies, hear the rambling
of their minds . . . Terrified as I am of developing dementia I see
the souls of these people still shining – maybe only a flutter or ,
or occasional blink. Its still there until the end.

When my father died, he had lost that light long before.  A
singer at heart, he would spend his days rolling out one song
after another.  Slowly the number of songs shrank.  Then the
words . . . until all that was left was a wavering hum. It was a
sorrow more than any other. For all his flaws and mistakes,
and the many goodness’ he gave, loosing the voice of his
wisdom, his ability to listen, really listen . . . and his gentle
spirit – his fathering and ability to be a good husband, left huge
holes in my life.

I had dementia myself for a year due to medication conflicts.  It
scared the hell out of me and my children. I still have cognitive
conflicts due to brain trauma. I’ve made it clear I want to die if it
increases.  I do not want to be a burden to my family and need my
independence.

Yet some of these people are funny, many are so full of knowledge
if you can just tap into it. They have their personalities and some led
amazing and powerful lives. They are caring in the midst of their own
suffering.

There’s Carol – trying to clean dishes and tables even though she
has a broken arm and hip. She wanders the hallways, notes when
others need help or are lonely. And she follows the aides and nurses
around like a lost puppy, babbling away.

But Rose is also here. Horribly confused, miserable, tears dripping
down her face as she cries for help to go to the bathroom 10 or more
nightly while I drag myself out of bed to press her call button and try to
calm her down. She doesn’t know herself anymore, how she appears
to others, what her life is like. Others near her are pushes to the edge.

I’ve know people who were the Director of the Board of the Metropolitan
Opera House, the couple who originated Pocket Parks in New York and
throughout cities in the US. I’ve taken care of the female Trailblazer on
Wall Street who is now deeply damaged by Alzheimer’s, the Corporate
President of highly successful businesses.  There are authors, including
one who has written over 30 books as a Professor of History. I know an
opera singer who doesn’t talk anymore. Its crushing.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. For a long time, they know they are
loosing the best of themselves and are scared, paranoid.  They reach
a point where they may get aggressive. They will look in the mirror and
not know who that person is.  And in the end, it can reach a point when
there is no motion no recognition of others much less themselves.

Passover Week – Who would I be?

When he rode the donkey into Jerusalem that fateful week,
would I have been one of the palm wavers,
dancing before him, singing psalms of his glory,

Or would I have been the cynical one,
or one too reserved to let loose my inner craving for him
and to bless him for all he had done.

Would I be a pot stirrer, easily swayed by Pilate’s men
to decry him, to rabble the crowds against him.
to cheer as he was whipped and beaten.

Was it foretold I would be Judas, his betrayer?
Would I run and hide as Peter, denying my intimacy to him?
Or refuse to watch as he was tried for crimes unknown.

Would I have been Simon the Cyrene, the man who picked up his cross,
shouldering a burden he was too weak to do all by himself.
Or perhaps faithful Mary Magdalene,  following his footsteps to Golgotha

After the betraying, violence, cruelty I participated in,
would I then grow quiet and cry watching him move in such pain.
Or have cheered for Barabbas, the murderer, to be released rather than the King?

I want to say “Of course I would be faithful!
But as human nature would have it,  I could have been the good Jew
that jeered and plotted and planned, scared of new thoughts and feelings.

Could I have opened my mind enough to accept the New Path,
and act against traditions millennia old, that my ancestors revered?
Could I have the strength of purpose to preach, to spread this new religion?

Or would I have done nothing, nothing at all . . .