Monday, April 30, 2012

Inclusive Celebration's

I seems that for the last three day we have attended events were the Bishop of Georgia was also there.  He is really getting around the Diocese these days; there was the ECW annual meeting on Friday, the Listening session he arranged to hear concerns as we approach The Episcopal's Convention, and yesterday to Ordain an new Deacon for the Church.

So here we were, sitting in St Margaret's of Scotland in Moultrie, Georgia, to share this life changing occasion with a dear friend of being Ordained a new Deacon.  There are Clergy, Church friends and Community friends also sharing together this important day in the life of our church and the service could be considered a 'high' service; lots of bell but no incense and lots of wonderful hymns and songs.  As Kay happens to look around at who has joined this collection of friends; Kay tells me to look  across the isle and one row behind us.  There happens to be sitting, two young men in white shirts, tie, black pants and the familiar pocket name tag that Kay and I knew so well.

These were two men from the Mormon Mission that had been walking down the street and were invited to join our Celebration.  Some older man standing outside had waived them down and just said to them, won't you please join us today.  I was watching them out of the corner of my eye when it came time to extend the Sign of Peace ande I only saw one or two people greet them.  So I immediately crossed the isle and extended my hand in the Sign of Peace and welcomed them and thanked them for taking the time to join us in Celebration that afternoon.

After the service, Kay and I went to them again and introduced ourselves and I asked them how they knew about Sally and what kind of work they did together; it was then we learned that they were asked by a greeter to join the day's service.  We chatted for a while and then Kay asked them if they knew her 'daughter' and family who were also Mormon who attends the service at the 1st Ward for Valdosta.  One of the young men told us the story of how he actually came to know this family.  We didn't ask how they enjoyed or thought of our service, but they got a full dose of the Episcopal Church, especially with our wonderful Bishop presiding.  They stayed and join the invited to share in food and drink and seemed to be have a great time chatting with those who also stayed.  We left them to enjoy the company as we return home for the day. What a story they have to tell as they sit around trying to 'one up' each other as they share their Mission story to others.

To experience what turned out to be such an inclusive event for the Church community in Mourtrie, Georgia; I can't help but shake my head in not understanding why some of our Church door's are shut fagainst our gay brothers and sisters. Member's of Christ's church community who are waiting to be called in off the street into our churches to join in the celebration and share with other the community Christ's Body and Blood.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Marching Forward

Time marches onward for all of us after we experience a loss such as of our Mother.  The sun still rises and sets on our busy day's schedule which took up where we left it to mourn.

A few days ago I returned to my mother's new grave site; the tent was still up as a shelter to give shade from the summer sun for those who would visit in the days after she was laid to rest beside her first love she lost those many years ago.  But now it must seem the time is counted like moments for her.

Our schedule has resumed its hectic course as I performed in our choral concerts the next Sunday and Monday.  Then Tuesday evening we officiated at our monthly PFLAG support meeting and on Friday we attended the first day of our Convention of Episcopal Church Women.  Today was a meeting with our Bishop and a small group of members to discuss issues that would be presented at our Tri-Annual National Convention for the Episcopal Church.

The two more important issues that will be discussed is how to restructure the Governing Body from its current form with the purpose of downsizing the need for so many committees and having the National Convention every 4 years instead of every 3; would save a lot of money.

The other issue, which will get more national press coverage, will be on the discussion of adopting a Rite of Blessing for couples; more specifically designed for same-gender/sex couples.  Kay and I spoke from our hearts about couples needing to receive the Church's Blessing but I believe some people only thought they heard the words; "Union or Marriage".  These were the topics of discussion at today's listening session, as it was call be the Bishop of Georgia.  The Bishop emphasized more than once that this rite is for the "Blessing" of couples; ONLY.  Opinions were heard from both sides; when someone begins a conversation with; "I have gay friends and know and socialize with many gay people, but....."; that's a downer from a person who is in the minority these days.

If only we  could engage a group of Episcopalian's in encouraging discussion as we have done on so many occasions in college classrooms; if we could put people's fear to rest that our marriage has nothing to do with theirs.  That would help change hearts.  But we do our best to educate, advocate and support the huge task of changing minds and hearts of all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Awesome Family Gathering

The family has survived the deep stress of arranging Mom’s funeral services, she was laid to rest on Friday under the warm South Georgia’s sun.
How well did Sarah fare?  I believe everyone welcomed me in their own ways. Most certainly the children had no problem warming up to Kay and I as were accosted by some very engaging playful ‘Lions’ disguised as the youngest children.  Stories were told and laughter and chatter were heard most of the afternoon by and among family. Most of the extended family was there; except for those who could not get away.  But Kay and I did get to meet the two youngest members of the ‘tribe’; Ava 7 months old and Liberty, 5 or 6 months old.  Both families were quite thrilled when I gave each of them, one of my baby quilts. 
My first wife was included as a family member as she helped my sister with my mother and had been out to eat with her on many occasions; when we had gathered to escort mom to the church she grabbed my arm and said, “I have something for you; do you remember anything about this cross?”  I told her that I didn’t remember the story. So she related how the cross came into our hands.
There was this officer I knew and I bumped into him when I was at the International four day march that happens every year in Nijmegen Holland with the 3rd Armored Division Band; as we were there to play for the many military unit who participates.  Anyway, this person I happen to know had forgot a shirt, and I literally gave him the one off my back.  So as a return favor, he had gone to Rome and happened to see the Pope and he had this Cross blessed for me.  This was the item that my first wife had reached into her purse to give to me while we waited to go to the church for mom’s funeral.  I was blown away by her generosity; she didn’t really have to do this.
By the end of the day, two of my Nieces had taken the time to drive down and pay their respect’s.  We were talking after the services at the grave site and the oldest niece told me that they did not know that I had transitioned and after telling my story she said; “I am so glad that you can be who you are and look so happy.”  As one of them said; “If it wasn’t for your mother taking in my mother, we wouldn’t be here.”  I haven’t seen or talked to either of them since my divorce, and I was afraid I would never meet them again.  It seemed that none of my nieces or nephews that I had not seen since I transitioned had no problem with me.  I don’t know what they will talk about when they are driving or flying back home, but most of them gave me a hug or told me goodbye.
I can’t describe the joy in my heart as my family stood to take a group picture; my daughter and her boyfriend, my son and his girlfriend, my oldest and their mother stood with Kay and I; all together.  Remarkable!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mother's Passing

To all those who have been reading this journal; I must report that my Mother passed away Thursday evening at 11:45 pm April 12. She went quietly without pain or complications. My son, daughter and ex wife were at her bedside along with my sister and Kay until 10:30 that evening when we went home to get into more comfortable clothes and take care of our animals. Kay and I returned to mom's home about 11:15 and were prepared to stay the night if necessary, as we realized that she might not last through until morning; we just didn't know when her last breaths could be.

She might have had a seizure on Monday and she had been showing signs of declining, less drinking, speech was mumbling, breathing difficult and fast. It was very difficult for her to take sips of any liquid.

It was just my sister, Kay and I with my mother when she started showing signs of her impending death as her breathing was very shallow and had slowed to less than 20 per minute. Kay called us both back into the room and we held her hand and stroked her forehead telling her that we both loved her as we heard her final breaths leave her body; and then she was gone. Her passing happened the way we should all go, surrounded by family who have loved and cared for her, sedated from pain and no tubes to keep her alive any longer than nature and life intended for her.

Almighty God, we remember this day before thee thy faithful servant Catherine.; and we pray that, having opened to her the gates of larger life, thou wilt receive her more and more into thy joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served thee in the past, she may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Vigil for Mother

Ever since my mother came home from the hospital my sister, Kay and I have kept a presence at her bedside attending to her needs and just being with her in her room. As this night is the traditional Maundy Thursday services where some tradition keep a 24 hour watch in the presence of the Elements; this is our ‘Watchful time’, a vigil if you will as we keep our own hours at our mother’s bedside. A lot of the times my sister will sit with us in mom’s room just talking and telling stories we know about mother when we were growing up. I have learned a great deal about my mother; stories that I might have heard but wasn’t interested in knowing and forgot or never knew. Stories about how my Mother was such a ‘fighter’ when it came to her children.

This is a picture of my mother and father when thy were much younger and dad was in his Army uniform, (dad had hair, by the way) but they are standing face to face with each having a pair of boxing gloves. She learned will the fighting lessons my farther taught her. My mother has always been a fighter, and she is still fighting her fight as she lays on her hospital bed. We are all amazed that she has been able to keep up her fight, as she only takes 8 to 12 oz of liquids a day; no other ‘solid’ foods.

My story about my mother fighting for me was when I was 7 or 8 and Catholic School and I was really a ‘left-handed’ child. The Nun that was my teacher that year was determined to make me into a ‘right-handed’ child and would whack my hand with a ruler if I picked up my pencil with the ‘wrong’ hand. I remember we had to use those huge round pencils and write all of our words and practice cursive strokes on the ‘Big Chief’ notebooks; you know the ones, those with the broad well space solid lines and a thiner dotted line dividing the space between? The tablet and the writing exercising where we had to draw our circles, and lines and the never ending ‘m’ and ‘n’s. Pages and pages of writing exercises written with a Nun in her black habit with a wooden ruler poised over your hands ready to strike if she thought you were not doing something right. Well, when I told mother what the Sister were doing to me in class, boy was she ever mad. She marched down to the school and my classroom to find this Nun and proceeded to give her ‘hell’ for what she was doing to her son; for demanding that I change my writing hand from ‘left’ to my ‘right’. Oh and that night my father was vocally upset that she talked in such a confronting, vocal manner. I have learned that I might have been the first of her many school confrontations, but I wasn’t the last time she had words with teachers and school official.

Sometimes I will sing to her as I sit at her bedside watching her shallow breaths and dream filled sleep. I learned that her favorite song was “Beautiful Dreamer” and I sing that one as well as several other songsI have added that I thing are songs that she would like to hear and remember. When I finish I always tell her that I love her; once she replied, “thank you, I love you”. It seems that she does respond and calms down after I have sung to her as I keep my vigil watch over her. And at the end of our vigil, I, at least, am a peace. We have had the many days to laugh and sing and tell stories at her bedside keeping our own private vigil with mother, and these will be the memories I shall be able to take with me in the days and months after she has left this world to be with her husband, our dad; who went so early in our lives.