Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Djinns

I begin with a short short SHORT story of my father's. I know the circumstance which is the context of the tiny tale is true. He told me that when he was in North Africa, during World War II--he actually was in Casablanca, and there was no "Rick's Cafe"--he caroused a bit too much and driving back to his base, I think, he overturned his jeep. This was no place to have that sort of incident as it was a dangerous time, and place. He was indeed rescued by several Bedouins, who helped him, and righted his jeep. The credit given to the Djinns, the spirits, known to us as genies, well, that, I think, is fiction!

The Jeep overturned.  I was thrown.  Ahead the blackened City of Bizerte loomed in the vast emptiness of war.

A luminescent fallen object beckoned. 

Image result for magic lamp
It was the brass lamp I bought in Tunis. Unaccountably, I rubbed it against my shirt, and sat, disconsolate, on the ground.

Suddenly, a Bedouin leading a camel, followed by others, emerged from the mist, life where there should be none.

Silently, they righted my vehicle.  I placed ten thousand francs in the leader's palm. He let them fall and pointed to the lamp.  I gave it to him.  It had begun to feel warm, alive.

As I read this piece, and thought about this entry, I found myself contemplating Djinns in relation to myself.

djinn

djinn is a certain type of spirit in Islam, similar to an angel. Many Muslims believe that a djinn can take the form of an animal or a human.
Muslim mythology includes angels and also the spirits known as djinns or jinns, which are described in the Qur'an as being able to interact with people despite being made of a "smokeless fire." Djinns are known for having free will, and for being either good or evil, like humans. The word djinn comes from the Arabic jinn, a plural noun that means both "demons or spirits" and also, literally, "hidden from sight." The word genie shares the same Arabic root.  (courtesy of vocabulary.com).






















In some odd fit of creativity, my father, at the behest of my mother, who wanted her first and only child to have an unusual name, bestowed that of the Djinn upon me. Djinna, actually, using the "a" to feminize the word, for Djinns can be male of female. I have had a mixed relationship with this name. Today, the word is known, and lots of people name companies after it (like Djinns shoes in Europe and there are games and comics using the name) and it is something of a badge of honor to be the only one in the world, as far as I know, with this first name, with this precise spelling, but given the nature of Djinns, and the poem by Victor Hugo that apparently was the final inspiration, I have, on and off, found myself disconcerted, and discomfited that any parent would equate their child with a Djinn. Djinns can be changelings, that is left in place of a human child. There is my explanation for feeling an outsider through pretty much my entire development! And I am glad that I didn't know what a changeling was when I was a child, because my father's joke that I was found in an A and P Supermarket bag might have added to the things to talk about in therapy.

My parents were eccentric, my mother perhaps more than my father. I don't say that with either anger or condescension. It was just a fact, as those of my friends who knew them (fewer my mother as she died when I was 20) probably could attest. They were just not like any people I ever knew from the Bronx, and possibly from anywhere.

Given this story, my father seems, despite the poem by Hugo, which posits Djinns as vindictive wraiths, to have felt they were helpful magic. He looked on them fondly. Thus is my discomfiture somewhat relieved.

The Catholic priest who baptized me didn't know the derivation of the name; he only knew that there was no saint with that name and so I couldn't be baptized with it. My middle name is my Baptismal name. I am only legally a Djinn. And I guess I have gotten used to it by this time. I certainly never was inclined to change it; the derivation is often a good icebreaker when I meet new people.

That's a good thing.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Gaze of Christ: The Zeffirelli Brother Sun, Sister Moon Crucifix Redux

Close up of the San Damiano Crucifix from Brother Sun, Sister Moon at St. Victor

The Welcoming Lord at St. Victor

The figure of Christ Crucified demands and dominates attention when you walk into St. Victor's Church in West Hollywood. The suffering Son of Man seems to be in three dimensions, his body almost lifting from the cross on which He is pinioned. For me, the most compelling feature is His eyes, that despite the pain seem to follow and embrace the visitor seeking prayer. This is the powerful representation of the God-Man who broke into time to reconcile Himself with the very creatures who would torment and kill Him. He asks for our response, in love, becoming as the apostles before us, His trusting disciples.

Pictured is a replica of the San Damiano Cross, extra special, perhaps, to the parishioners of St. Victor, because this very crucifix was once a part of a Franco Zeffirelli movie, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" made in 1972. It is the romantic, almost impressionistic, production of the tale of St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up the life of rich comfort to serve God as a lowly mendicant. I try not to hold against the movie that Donovan did the main musical theme, but it WAS the 1970s.

"Francis," Our Lord said as Francis stood in a crumbling edifice beholding the Cross, "rebuild my Church."

Francis, initially, took the command literally, to rebuild the San Damiano church that had fallen into ruins. But he was being asked to do more, to demonstrate the road, first to the Cross, but then through that instrument, to everlasting life to be followed by all men, if only we will believe in God's immense love and power.

I sometimes think, when I sit in the amber low light before this paradoxically comforting one time prop that I can hear a voice imploring me to do some rebuilding of my own--of my too variable faith.

How did we become so blessed, our parish community, to have this beautifully rendered icon?  It was the creation of Lorenzo Mongiardino.  He was the Production Designer of  several Zeffirelli movies. He was an interior designer, and an architect.  It was he who crafted this personal image of Christ. He would, I hope, be pleased that his handiwork now truly glorifies God accompanying the daily celebration of the Mass.

Perhaps fifteen or more years ago, Mr. Zeffirelli had an auction, in Italy, of his props from many of his movies. The San Damiano Cross was one of them. I do not know how he happened upon it, but our pastor of the time, Monsignor George Parnassus, obtained the catalog of the upcoming event. By letter, he began a negotiation to bring the Crucifix to St. Victor to replace a tapestry above the tabernacle. I admit I had never been fond of the tapestry, purporting to be Jesus driving out the money changers. However, the putative Jesus was bald, and I knew of no reproduced image of a bald Jesus. It was apparently an antique, but I could never warm up to it.

The Crucifix was acquired for the parish by our tenacious Monsignor, and I understand, at his personal expense. I first saw it under a tarp on a long table in the lower sacristy. It was in need of restoration. If you see the movie, you will note that the Crucifix is made to look worn and torn, and on one side, an entire piece of wood is missing. There is also a hook like section at the bottom right (or left as you look at it) which needed to be filled in.

The Crucifix in the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon.


It was also so heavy, it needed a specially constructed hardware to affix it above the tabernacle.

Extras gather under the Cross in the movie.
But once there, our San Damiano Cross became a beloved sacramental that encouraged gazing up and imagining the Lord of centuries ago still present in the Tabernacle below. When I look at these pictures of the movie and then see the same Cross in our parish, I feel the kind of calm and comfort and trust in God, I wish I could maintain outside the Church walls. We have much that is beautiful at St. Victor, that surrounds us as seek to cooperate in the work of salvation, including the stained glass windows made by the well known Pizcek sisters (now both passed on), but for me the Crucifix has a special place in my heart.

I so want there to be a memory of the history of this piece of art, where Hollywood (a la Italia) meets Catholicism that I forgot I wrote already about this in a prior iteration of my blog, back in 2014. But you know, the internet is a big place, and memory is transient. I don't think there can be enough mention. 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Poor Woman

  Donatello's Mary Magdalene in Florence, Italy

Like most people, I assume like most people, I struggle over whether to give money to those holding up signs saying they need food, shelter, or just money. There is a certain corner on La Cienega and San Vicente here in Los Angeles, where there appear to be shifts of individuals with signs. There is the man who says he is a veteran; there is the woman who puts her hands together as if in prayer; there is the young man about whom it is hard not to say to yourself, "Why can't he find some job?" for he looks fairly healthy and sturdy. I give a dollar here and there. I have given cards for help finding jobs and a place to live to some along with a dollar or two. But they are there almost every day. There was a recent article, and not the first I have seen, where someone who claimed to be in need packed up his things from a median or a side of the road and went back to his not ramshackle residence. These sorts of reports tend to harden one's heart, and these days, with so much skulduggery around in small and great places, it is difficult not to have one's heart get hard as a rock.

I have told myself, "Just give. It doesn't matter what they do with the money. That's between them and their consciences. You are doing what you believe you ought." But then I would be giving a dollar block to block because some days, that's what happens, it is one person after another at every store, every gas station, every eatery. I have bought food for some. Some have said no to the food and insisted on money. There goes my heart again, solidifying.

Today was a variation and my heart, well, it softened so that I was nearly weeping.

It was after the noon Mass at St. Victor. I was putting out the candles and cleaning up the vessels. My final act was to close the gates to the sanctuary, when a woman came to the altar rail. I couldn't believe how much she reminded me of the picture that heads this entry. She was about as thin. She wasn't wearing dress like rags--she was dressed in pants and a shirt and sweater over it. Her blondish hair, or maybe it was gray, was long and straggly, pretty much exactly like the picture. She kind of lisped, so I assumed she was missing some teeth, and her accent sounded vaguely Middle Western, maybe Oklahoma. She called to me. "Ma'am".  When I saw her, I assumed she would be asking for some money. Her face was so gaunt. But she asked only if there was a Bible in the Church she could read. There are books in the sacristy for prayers for various occasions, some formal books with readings for the day, but it isn't a religious library and it was unlikely there would be a Bible as such. Besides I couldn't give away a hard cover belonging to the parish even if I found one. I told her that I probably didn't have a Bible, but I'd look for something that I could let her look at (and if it came to that keep). She went to the very back row.

We usually have a softcover Magnificat, or the Daily Word lying about. These include readings for the day and meditations, and I find them really on point and deeply comforting. The one that I found was probably supposed to stay in the sacristy, but no one had written on it, "Do not remove" as so often they do. I made an executive spiritual decision. I went to the back and gave it to her. She was looking at the Missalette, but this would be much more substantial. She took it, I'd almost say, greedily, but in a good way. Then she asked me how far we were from the ocean. I said "quite a way but you can take the bus."  She said she didn't have money for the bus. But then she also didn't ask me for any. She said that she had been walking, needed a rest, but would walk to the ocean. "That's going to be a long walk." She said, "I just need to rest a little bit."

Something about her made me think of Jesus. She seemed out of time to me, and I could easily imagine her encountering Him, and He blessing her.

I ran into a few people on the way to my car, where I had a twenty and about five or six in singles--I was low on cash and needed an ATM run. I hoped she'd still be there. She was. And she was reading the Magnificat. I offered her the singles so she could get the bus to the ocean. She said, "No, I don't use money." She didn't say she doesn't take money. She said, "I walk."  "But how do you eat?" I pursued.

"I go through garbage cans. Sometimes people will buy me food. Sometimes I go to the food pantries."  I said, "Well, if we were at a restaurant, I would buy you some food, so just take the money."  She declined, quietly, but firmly.

Was her declination a part of her psychological fragility? Was it something more deep and philosophical?  I will probably never know.

But she seemed to me to be precisely what the Lord called the "poor in spirit."  Almost penitential like Mary Magdalene. I remember sitting across from the statue many many years ago, on my first trip to Europe. I was drawn to her. Today, I felt just about as drawn to the poor woman who visited St. Victor's.








Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Doctors" - A Reverie by my Late Father

After another hiatus--there will be many of them, as recording Dad's many stories on this blog takes time, and energy--I present another of his tales. This one is an observation of his dealings with doctors. I don't know that it's one of his best written, but it is a commentary on our times, and so, to my mind, relevant for posterity. After I read it, it is also a painful reminder that my father's death in 2008, was the result of some of the failures he writes of here. He did not die of heart disease, or bladder cancer, which had been diagnosed, but rather of sepsis after an out patient procedure. He probably had the beginnings of the sepsis when he went for the procedure. I had been concerned about whether he could tolerate the procedure. The doctors, including his cardiologist, the one that my father liked, but whom I found to be a pompous. . . .well, you know. . . were casual and non-responsive to my father's and my, concerns. By the time I got him to the hospital, it was too late, and somehow they couldn't figure out what should have been obvious.  His own regular doctors avoided me while he was hospitalized for four days and never said a word to me after dad died. Dad was 90. Given his longevity, and the fact for me it would never be about money, I didn't sue. They knew I was an attorney. I did write them both a letter. Naturally, likely on the advice of counsel, they never replied. I note they continue to flourish. I wonder if the death of my father ever gave them pause.

And so, without further ado, my father observes:



It is only lately that I am more comfortable with doctors.  

I am at an age generously beyond the biblical allotment of three score and ten. My longevity is perhaps due to some of the ministrations of medical men over the course of perhaps forty surgeries and the consonant after-treatment.

I cannot say that being lanced, sutured, subject to importunate invasive tubes and implements, the mechanical invaders of bodily privacy, has given me great insight into the psyche of doctors. I do feel, however, that I have seen enough to justify my--disquietude--at some of the treatment I have received.  I am, though, fortunately still alive because of some superb thoracic reconstruction done to repair damage caused by the inaction of doctors who, in times gone by had no knowledge to forestall the trauma.

It was the lot of a skilled surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to refurbish an area of the heart damaged in 1980 because of the then standard operating procedure. Those were the dark ages in terms of today's progress.

Then I spent six prone days in Intensive Care with little attention. Occasionally, a nurse applied a nitro glycerin paste to my chest.  I had one X-ray in the ICU with an immense camera lumbered into the room by a minuscule technician.

But today, I had a work-up by a young Cedars cardiologist who appears well instructed in the updated manual of the heart.  He is followup up on an elevated pulse that sent me to the Emergency Room the day after Thanksgiving.

So far we have done the standard tests, the four vials of blood, the electrocardiogram and, of course, an X-Ray.  The doctor's name is Joel (not his real name). He is genial, quick, the kind of a kid I would have played handball with in earlier days.  I like him. I like his appearance of humility, and his forthrightness.  I am more confident than usual.

"Boy," he exclaimed on viewing the cardiogram.  "Your heart too a big hit in 1980!"

"They might have saved me the damage had they given me an aspirin,"  I said.

"We've come a long way since then," he mused.

After the Northridge earthquake of 1994, my already anxious nature was honed to critical pitch.  I consulted another cardiologist for mental surcease.  I disliked him on sight--recognizing him as from the 'Elohist' school wherein doctors refer to themselves in the royal "we".  Here was a doctor who set himself apart from ordinary humanity, who thought himself immortal.

He stood too close for my taste as he probed the prescribed areas--chest, back, the left and the right carotids--uttering periodic "hmmmms" as if he were experiencing medical epiphanies.  He punctuated his exam with the usual questions, "Do you smoke?" among them, that philosophers' stone that explains for medicine all the ills they cannot solve.

"Did you smoke?" he persisted.  

"Four packs a day," I said.  This called for several remonstrative "hmmmms."

"Listen, Doc," I said, exasperated.  "I was born when your mentors were still bleeding their patients.  They all smoked.  Just a few years ago when I lay in peril from a heart attack your profession had not yet learned of the preventative value of an aspirin."

My own internist, a childhood friend, the doctor who sent me to the hospital in 1980, examined me, while smoking.  He was never without a cigarette in his mouth."

I guess my impression of doctors is colored by the longevity that has seen the great strides in medicine.  The consequent ill is that the image of Dr. Kildare diagnosing on sight a melanoma on Lionel Barrymore's arm is somewhat dimmed.  The doctor of today is being reshaped in the crucible of equipment and cost.  Medicare has imposed the stricture on hospital time with its limit on payment for hospital stays--hence the "outpatient" procedures which assume that you may be safely returned home within the time allotted determined by how much Medicare is willing to pay.  

I had a hernia operation and a tumor removed from my bladder, on such an outpatient basis.  Throughout the night I monitored the clear plastic catheter as it ran red. It was still red when the surgeon exclaimed, "It's clear you can go home."  

One seldom sees a doctor up close.  There is the consultation and then the office visits in which he plays a minor role.

You are led to the consulting room.  The technicians take over.  Someone takes your blood pressure and other vitals.  Another hands you a bottle or sets you in the prone for a test. I have one surgeon of whom I have only caught a glimpse just before the anesthetic takes over.  There is brief joy in his ebullient post operative visit, the deft removal of some prosthetic device, after which he says, "Take a deep breath."

When I was a child I knew a doctor, one whose human side exceeded by far his knowledge of medicine.  He was old, gray and gaunt.  He occupied a cluttered leathery office on Boston Road, in the Bronx, across from Morris High School.  He did house visits, always accompanied by his tired little black bag.

He guided me through measles, scarlet fever, contusions and minor breaks--for a dollar visit.  Sometimes he did not get the dollar.

There were no outpatient considerations.  He sentenced me to thirty days in bed for the measles and scarlet fever and forbade me meat.  I think of him as a doctor in the way Hippocrates phrased the requirements.  I like him even now, even though he caused the destruction of my model airplane collection to prevent infection of my siblings and the world.

This is not to disparage the modern physician.  He is the product of the times.  He is the human element of a mechanical robotic structure, subject to economic exigencies, his own limitations, human venality and politics--the hubris of little men who are just scratching the surface of the Infinite.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Considerations on a Swim on a Summer Day


I just returned to my apartment after a late afternoon swim down there. Well, it was more a late afternoon float as I am not much of a swimmer. The sun was just brushing the shallow end of the pool when I got there, and though I went a couple of times to the deep end with a boogie board I got at the 99 Cent Store that I couldn't handle very well--I tried to sit on it and naturally it popped out from under me--I spent the largest part at the still slightly sunny end, allowing the water, and the sun to do what they do best, put me in an extreme state of relaxation. For some reason, not a lot of people in this building use the pool, me, a couple of times during a summer, the HOA President, and a couple of downstairs neighbors are about it out of a bit over 20 residents. That works for me, as there is something delightful about having the whole space to myself. And when it is as hot as it has been, so few people are going in and out that I feel as if the whole building is mine as I noodle in the water.

I think the pool is one of the favorite parts of my living in this location. The angle of the photo is the view I have when I am sitting on my terrace and I call it (to myself, and now to all of you) my "little lake".  All I have to do is go up a few steps after a swim and I'm home, out of the wet clothes and into the cozy dry. Now that's something I didn't have in the Bronx! I feel gratitude for this small amenity, more than I would have thought possible.

At one point, I simply sat submerged (except for my head) on one of the steps--you can see the rail there in the picture, where the steps are. I let my hands float free under the water. The water undulated around me gently. The sun was between two parts of the building and had that look you usually only see in drawings, the little triangular extensions of fire. I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I noticed one of the local hummingbirds on a cactus by the wall watching me, and twittering. I closed my eyes again. And again when I opened them a minute or two later, the bird was still there. The sun, the weightlessness, the minute creature observing me--I was at complete peace.

Other than the twittering birds, the sounds were limited to the occasional bark of a dog and the mechanical hums of several air conditioners. As I sit tee shirted, shorts and bare footed on the terrace, another of my favorite parts of living in this location, I still hear the sounds of the occasionally barking dog, the twittering hummingbirds garnering the last of the day's nectar from my feeder, and the humming of the air conditioners, though the temperature has dropped significantly. And my old cat Bleu is taking a swig of water from my solar fountain.

Life is good.





Saturday, July 8, 2017

"What If ?" Is Such a Waste

It's a very hot night in Los Angeles, at least indoors. The heat of the day isn't leaving my apartment so I have turned on the air conditioner. Oddly, though, it is cool enough (but humid for California) to sit outside in a soupcon breeze. I came out here to write. But then I found myself unable to begin. That happens often, but mostly because I cannot settle on a direction. Tonight, I have a direction, or a continuation of one that finds itself weaving through my blog, but one that seems to discomfit some of my friends who kindly read my words here. As to them it will come no surprise, I tend to write a lot about life and death. I think they (and others perhaps) assume that this focus comes from depression. Heck, I have been depressed more times than I can count, but my preoccupations in these pages isn't derived from sadness. It's just kind of not wanting to ignore what is plainly around me to be reckoned with, and in the reckoning, in an odd sense the hope that finally I will leave behind that fear and anxiety that has been too often an obstructive companion and kept me, to here, from many ordinary adventures. Hard to explain. We all deal with scary "what-ifs" in our lives, but I have carried my "what-iffing" to being a frozen figure on a plateau while others have courageously moved beyond me in what might even be considered basics, things like love, and family. They were willing, to paraphrase some line in one of my favorite movies, "Shadowlands" to take the pain with the joy. I often wasn't. Oh, I didn't avoid the pain. I just missed the joy.  I have noticed that Providence thus has placed certain things in my path, over I should tell you my vociferous objections, to get me out of speculative worry to face, to embrace, real life in all its facets. I have been so busy with the "what-ifs" that I ran before I engaged in far too much.




So what got me thinking about all this yet again? Well, two things, but I'll mention the first, and leave the second, a play I saw today, called "Constellations" to another entry. Maybe.

I was visiting my elderly friend as I do two to three times a week at a nursing home in Culver City. One of the Carmelite sisters was giving a presentation to a group of residents, and my friend was among them. I don't know that she recognized me immediately--I sense of late she doesn't always-- or maybe she didn't see me come in, but I didn't want to interrupt the proceedings, so I sat a short way off.  I noticed a new resident. She was clearly agitated, and trying to get up, though not steady on her feet, from her wheel chair. Sister managed to continue her presentation while attempting to soothe the woman by sympathetically caressing her back, but the woman's tears required a nurse to attend to her. She was taken to the nurses station which I could see from my vantage point, and she was no more calmed by their presence and ministrations. I could hear her asking to be taken to someone, I guessed a family member, who was not there. Probably, like so many of the residents, like my friend, she has dementia and is no longer able to care for herself and depending on its manifestations, neither is her family able any longer to take care of her. She shook all over as she cried to be rescued. from what is one of the possible inevitabilities of becoming ill. The staff tried to comfort her, to no avail. I felt for the nurses, as well as the woman.  Sometimes it just isn't all right, and nothing can make it so.

Each of us, if we don't die young, and quick, has to face the possibility that this might happen to us. I found it surprising that though it occurred to me that at some point in the not so distant future, I could be a new resident in a place like this, being led, as the Bible says to where I do not wish to go, I did not have an attack of the "what ifs".  I did book mark it in my head. I did also wonder that since I have been much of my life alone, and much of it, despite my often gregarious demeanor, a loner, whether I would seek rescue from an outside human source--even if I were compromised by dementia.

I am having a hard time with this entry. Not sure why. I think I am saying that I spent the first two thirds of my life worrying about things that might happen but were no where on the horizon. Now there are things most definitely on the horizon, and I am getting a preview, and somehow that jolt of reality is finally wrenching me from my old habit of "what-if", into more of a "What are you going to do now?" mode.  Maybe.

More than twenty years ago, someone I greatly respected. and trusted, exhausted himself in trying to get me away from my crippling "what-ifs" asked me that very phrase, "What are you going to do Djinna?" Before that, my father tried to logic me out of my cyclical thinking. They both hung in with me until, well, they died.  I spun my wheels. It's getting a little late in the day to keep spinning my wheels.

If spending time in a care home doesn't motivate me to deal with what is real, not potentialities I fear, then nothing will.







Friday, July 7, 2017

Long Ago Events that Give Us (Me) Pause




I was scrolling on Facebook the other day. Someone had posted a video of a French Canadian Priest, a Franciscan I think, giving a homily to a large crowd. It was some kind of convention. It was on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. He seemed robust. He was praising God, and His Son. He walked back and forth as he spoke, alert, alive. And then, he wasn't. He winced for a moment. Put his hand to the center of his chest, though he continued to speak of God without abatement. And then he fell down. And died.

I had the sense, though the Facebook post did not indicate so, that this was not a very recent event. In fact, it happened just over twenty five years ago, June 26, 1992. I wanted to know more about this priest, beyond the capture of his death on live television. I could find almost nothing other than he founded an order, and of course, that he was a speaker. But I could not even locate an obituary.

It's not like I don't know that people die all the time. I have been to enough funerals. I have been in a room just as someone (both my parents) died, or just after. It is no surprise that we can go from life to death in a fraction of a moment. But I have never seen it quite like this. Fr. Hurtubise wasn't (apparently) sick. When he died, he was doing his job. He died, literally, on the job, smack in the middle of daily life.

In some ways, it doesn't feel like it has anything to do with me. And then in a flash, I know that it does. It doesn't scare me, precisely (unless I happen to be in an airplane flying across country in which all I can think about is the descent of the plane and the inevitable result), but it makes me a little mad at myself. I have lived in perpetual anxiety. Since I was retired from my job, there are fewer triggers for that anxiety, but it still rears its ugly head, cyclical thought and doubt, resolve and doubt again about the least thing. And seeing this video somehow put my life long fears into the realm of the absurd, at the same time knowing that it is unlikely (at this age) I shall ever allow life to unfold without trying to control it with my defense mechanisms. They waste life. I have always known that. I have worked hard to temper these fears, but still I have not lived as I could have for their niggling at me.

Cliche's come to mind, like that old chestnut, "Live in the moment". Well, that's all very well if you have no responsibilities. We all have some responsibility, some more than others. And yet, in observing the small distance of the fall of the priest from homilist to deceased, the phrase rumbles as an exigency in my mind.

The Benedictines have a motto, "Keep death daily before your eyes." They don't mean worry about it, as worry, I have come to know as one who did it endlessly, kills joy.  But recognizing that there are things to do now, in this moment, which may not be available in the next. They, of course, are also talking about preparation for the eternal journey, which they, and I, believe in. Maybe that's why I wanted to read more about Fr. Hurtubise. I wanted to know about what had gone before in his preparation for that moment when he felt that twinge and left the world.