I tried putting on a brave face. I knew it wouldn't help her a titch if I let the real feelings pop to the surface.
So I focused on the positives: that by moving to another city far away, my friend would become a blessing to others. It's true, of course. She will. But I also know uprooting your family to another part of the country after settling in and finding your church, school, and a nurturing city is no small thing.
It's part of our very mobile society, however. It happens all the time.
Someone is offered a great job and after a time of hemming and hawing, the decision is made to go. And at some point, there's no turning back.
Frequent though it may be, I wonder if we properly acknowledge as a society the loss involved, not only for the mover but for those left behind. In fact, I would say in some cases it's harder on those left in the wake.
I've never relished goodbyes and when we moved out West in our first year of marriage, it happened so fast that I didn't have time to tell all of my friends we were going. I'll never forget the shocked reaction of one who found out after we'd departed.
I realized then I'd probably refrained from a big announcement in part to protect myself from uncomfortable goodbyes. Clearly, I saw in hindsight, that had been a selfish decision. I'd denied some of my friends a chance to experience the stages of letting go I'd already quietly experienced.
Now, I'm on the other side of it, and I can say this friend has been generous in the sharing. She's brought our circle of faith-sharing women into each step of the process and we've circled around her and tried to lend our supportive hearts and minds to make her uprooting a little less painful.
But in all of that I'd not let myself consider that this is a real loss for us.
It's important to share that the friend who is moving a couple months from now is a vibrant person, the epitome of hyperbole. Along with being a true thespian, she's a mother and wife, a teacher, a skilled vocalist and flutist, a dancer and a church decorator.
She began coming to our circle of faith-sharing sisters when her oldest of two children, now in middle school, was a baby. There, she poured out her life's hopes, dreams and fears as we did in turn. Though we didn't do tons of socializing together outside our group, we've definitely come to know each others' souls from the inside-out during these years together.
So last week, as we joined forces in song-leading at a regular weekly school Mass -- I managing melody and she handling harmony -- it hit me. She's leaving and this kind of thing isn't going to happen again. Come May, the harmonies will cease. The strength I feel from her leadership and musicianship in this instance, and the ardent yearning to know God I witness from her at our group, will be no longer.
The passionate responses and dramatic conclusions we've come to expect from this friend in our faith-sharing group will dissipate. There will be not just a tiny void but a glaring chasm.
After receiving the Eucharist that day, I went back to my chair and realized I couldn't completely hold back the tears, though I remained discreet and composed through the final song. I can act too, after all.
But as we were putting away stands and music at the Mass's conclusion, I felt a prompting to tell her what had just happened. Even though I knew it might set her off course a bit, I wanted her to know now -- not two months from now -- that she'd mattered.
"I'm grieving you," I said, and within a few moments we were in a heartfelt embrace that I'm sure made those still lingering in the sanctuary wonder. It called to mind another grieving friend-hug I had in a swimming pool years ago when we learned a friend was leaving, not just to another town but our world due to a prolonged illness.
Sometimes, you just have to stop and acknowledge your grief -- in fact, to name it in the first place. Whether someone is leaving the earth or moving a few states away, the loss is real.
Granted, my friend isn't dying, but preparing for her to fade into the horizon is like a mini-death. And it deserves a little space -- even if just an unplanned, unrehearsed moment of embrace among two friends.
Some in our faith-sharing group went to see our friend perform in her last public drama here the same night of the tearful Mass. In the "Forbidden Broadway" performance, she carried out a rousing rendition of both Carol Channing and Liza Minnelli. It was the perfect way for her to end her theatrical career here. We laughed our way through it, celebrating but knowing, too, that the goodbye has begun.
Now that I've gotten my tears out of the way, I think I can go back to doing what needs doing to help send my friend on her way. This is life, after all, always a welcoming, always a letting go. Not always easy, but always possible.
Q4U: What have you learned about grieving to prepare you for the next round?
sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a
second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them
here, with permission. The following was originally printed in The Forumnewspaper, on Feb. 22 2014.]
Faith conversations: What is prayer? Seven people, seven answers
By Roxane B. Salonen
FARGO – As a teenager, whenever I felt life’s burdens closing in on me,
and sometimes when experiencing joy, I would light a little prayer
candle and enter into a divine dialogue that brought immeasurable peace.
need for that communication with God never waned, though my commitment
has flickered on and off through the years. What I do know is that
prayer and a vibrant faith go together, and our relationship with God
must be cultivated.
St. Therese of Lisieux described prayer as “a
surge of the heart,” “a simple look turned toward heaven,” and “a cry
of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.”
Curious how others define prayer, I asked seven area faithfuls of different religious perspectives to share their thoughts.
Myers, 69, was raised in Texas as a Christian of the Methodist
persuasion. He was something of a skeptic from early on, however, he
Later, as a professor at Minnesota State University
Moorhead, he taught world religion, and during that time, “fell in love
Judaism, he says, is more about practice than belief, which, for someone for whom belief does not come easily, works well.
welcomes questions, and many Jews struggle with belief in God. It’s as
much about living a compassionate and just life as it is about any kind
The word for prayer in Hebrew, he says, is “self-evaluation” or “self-judgment.”
“Both prayer and the study of Torah should lead to acts of kindness,” he says. “It comes back again to deed.”
Though moral transformation is one objective of prayer, he says, there’s another just as important.
should sustain in us a radical amazement – the very fact that we exist,
that there’s a world at all – and also instill in us a gratitude for
50, grew up in Egypt immersed in the religion of Islam, which
incorporates two types of prayer – formal and informal.
Formal prayer, performed five times daily with prescribed actions and sayings, is “essentially an act of worship,” he explains.
He likens informal prayer of Islam to that of other Abrahamic faiths.
is where people essentially talk to God directly, and ask for help,
guidance and forgiveness,” he says. “Muslims are encouraged to do both.”
formal prayer involves different positions, beginning upright and
declaring intent to perform the prayer. It includes reading parts of the
Koran and other postures of kneeling and bending.
“It’s a form of
showing deference to God, and the constant reminder to us throughout
our busy day that there is a supreme being that we are praying to,”
Amy Bjerke, 39, a Lutheran Christian, looks at prayer as “a conversation throughout the day with God.”
used to pray only when I needed something or was in a panic,” she says.
“Now it’s a daily thing, giving thanks for all we have. It’s my road
map to living my life.”
But life for Bjerke, a wife and mother to
six children – three living – hasn’t always been roses. In April 2010,
after 20 weeks of pregnancy and nine hours of labor, she gave birth to a
son, Matthew, who had died in her womb. A miscarriage both preceded and
followed this tragedy.
With this suffering came a shift in her
prayer life. Bjerke says she felt peace in surrendering everything to
God and asking him to turn her sorrow into something good.
closed door led to the opening of another as the family entered the
journey of adoption and were connected with their daughter, Malia, an
orphan from China.
“It’s amazing how out of 150 million orphans,
God can pick the right one for you,” she says, adding that prayer was
central in the family’s journey toward adoption. “It’s a lifeline with
the giver of life.”
Dubas, 37, grew up in Nebraska, where she sometimes felt alone in her
yearning toward God – even while attending Catholic high school.
of the kids didn’t seem to care much about their faith. It didn’t seem
to really bleed into their daily lives,” she says. “I think it was more a
lack of urgency to know Christ because their lives were filled with so
many other things.”
As a teen, she began attending 6:30 a.m. daily
Mass with her father. “Dad would knock on my door about 10 minutes to,
and I’d get up and throw my hair into a ponytail and go.”
she can’t attend Mass everyday these days, it remains “a stabilizing
point” for her. “It’s a huge blessing to say, ‘OK, Lord, here I am in
all my brokenness and weakness. I’m here to receive your strength and
Prayer can happen in many forms, from traditional, memorized prayer to a spontaneous conversation with God, she says.
“The purpose is to basically draw close to the source of life.”
Bourdon, 60, converted to Tibetan Buddhism in January 2005. Though he
has strong Christian roots, he says, growing up he always felt something
As an adult, Bourdon stepped into a Tibetan center and immediately felt at home.
“I knew right away that this was my path. It was like a lightning strike.”
likens the Buddhist religion to rain. “When it starts to rain we like
to find a shelter,” he says. “The Buddha is shelter from the pain of
Unlike a god, Buddha isn’t worshipped, he says; there’s no
expectation of a deistic outcome. Rather, Buddha is “an ideal, a
reference point based on the fact that all the qualities that Buddha
exhibits, like inherent generosity and loving kindness, are already
When the Christian is in prayer, God enters in, he
says, but for a Buddhist in meditation, the contemplative state allows
for a discovery of the true nature of one’s mind.
“It opens our
hearts so we can be more fully present, loving and compassionate toward
those we’re interacting with on a day to day basis.”
Yellow Bird, 61, an Arikara, grew up in a large Christian home, but was
introduced to his traditional Native American ways through his
When his father passed away in 1997, he became the
family’s spiritual adviser, taking on the name Bear Shield to reflect
his new role and spiritual gifts.
The Arikara approach to prayer,
he says, is to ask the Creator for protection over one’s family and
people and for forgiveness for the body’s weakness.
goes back 10,000 years, he notes, and is still practiced through
ceremonies like smudging and praying through sweat lodges.
At the ICU unit at Sanford Hospital, Yellow Bird helps Native patients deal with illness and death.
work with the family first, to change their sadness and hopelessness,
to look at the miracles,” he says. “Then we all go and see the patient,
because we want that good energy to be in there; that’s going to help
Sometimes the body revives, but not always. “I’m just an extension of the Creator. It’s his decision,” Yellow Bird says.
Kadrie, 84, grew up in North Dakota as a farmer’s daughter, but one
whose parents had come from Syria and were Muslim. She recalls her
father reading the Koran cover to cover several times a year, and taking
time out of every day to chant.
Kadrie also was exposed to
Christianity, and while seeing the merits of both religions, felt
dissatisfied, she says. Then, as a teenager, she was given a little
booklet on the Bahá’í faith. After a five-year search, she knew she’d
found her spiritual path.
“Our purpose is to know and love God and
to serve mankind, and prayer is the foundation of everything,” says
Kadrie, who practices obligatory prayer in the morning, noon and
Bahá’í attracted her because of its inclusion of all the
major world religions, she says, and incorporation of texts from the
Bible, Koran and Buddhist scriptures along with books of Baha’u’llah.
Work is also elevated to prayer, Kadrie adds. “It is the attitude of our life that we pray in everything that we do.”
Saturdays aren't my usual posting days, but I wanted to finish strong in my "7 posts in 7 days" challenge by Jen at Conversion Diary. Which meant I had to come up with a theme like I have for my regular posting days. I didn't want to leave Saturday out.
After much pondering in my "this has been the coldest winter in memory," "take me out of this frozen prison," "Save Our (Icicle-laden) Ship"
mindset, I decided on "Sunny Saturdays." Because at this point it's
either think sunny thoughts or go mad, and I choose the former.
With that in mind...
feel like this sunflower, thirsting for sun, turning toward warmth and
letting it wash me anew. Do you feel it too?
I have a job to do. I'm to come up with my final post of "7 in 7" and
I'm a bit depleted in words by now. A post a day is hard work with all
of my other obligations besides. But I'm glad I did it. That said, I
need a little help getting to the finish line, and have summoned Mother
Teresa of Calcutta for assistance.
It was aptly timed that my Catholic writers' list moderator shared this post this week - "7 Steps to a Holier Life by Mother Teresa" by Matthew Warner from The Radical Life website.
a fan like so many are of Blessed Mother Teresa, it seems very
appropriate that she would assist me with this finish, add something
bright to my Sunny Saturday, and help me (and perhaps you too) head into
Lent with the right attitude.
The 7 steps include:
1. Slow down
2. Make some room
3. Open your eyes
4. Put great love into small things
5. Do not tire
6. Remember, it's faithfulness not success
7. Leave the rest to Jesus
To read Matt's brief elaborations of each, find them at the actual post. And for further edification, return to them, often.
bless as we turn the corner toward this season of learning how we can
live for others, and in that, find our true purpose and fulfillment.
This isn't a review because I haven't yet picked up the book -- though I very much hope to soon. Maybe another Lenten read?
I received the link on a busy day but something about the title caught me, so I began reading the review. Ah, it's about monasteries and the draw of them. Immediately I'm hooked. Having had the blessing of getting to know two monasteries so far in my life, I can't help but be alert.
Carmel of Mary monastery, Wahpeton, ND, fall 2012
I know the safe harbor they provide for the weary soul. There are few things in life as lovely as having the space and place to commune with God in this way.
Through both, in different seasons of my life, I've rediscovered the quiet voice within and come out of the experience all the richer -- fortified, ready to resume the ardors and joys of everyday life.
So I couldn't help but be moved by this paragraph of the review:
"Valente arrives at the monastery beleaguered, anxious and exhausted. She
is immediately startled by the saturating silence that surrounds her.
As the alchemy of silence begins to transform, she discovers how the
monastic day, regulated as it is by the chanting of the Hours, gives
context and form to community life. Prayer becomes not some separate
activity, but the day itself. She resonates with the alternating rhythms
of work and leisure, the attention to detail and beauty, the care of
each person, and the concern for the world beyond the monastery's walls.
She encounters women who find meaning and zest in life, who form
lifelong friendships, who are humble and filled with gratitude, and who
have no fear of death. She is stunned by the conundrum that it is
precisely their restriction that offers them great freedom."
Mid-paragraph I am seized by familiarity: "Prayer becomes not some separate activity, but the day itself."
This has been my experience during my monastery stays. I've mentioned it here before, and to others at other times, that in recent visits especially it's hit me later, or sometimes during, that rather than setting aside time as I thought I would have for intimate conversations with God, I have found those intimate conversations happen moment by moment as I breathe in the blessing of the sacred spaces and stillness. When I am there, my whole body feels restful, and in sustained fashion, this is such a healing thing.
I've noticed this too: that at Mass at the monastery, everything is slower -- the words, the songs. When returning after a visit to my home parish filled with its families and another kind of vibrancy, I can't help but feel that everything is a bit rushed. "What's the hurry?" I think, having become accustomed to and immersed in something less harried.
From my perspective, the reviewer accomplished what she set out to do. This paragraph was a description in many ways of my own experience, and for that reason I must read this book. Because I am going to assume that if one line from a review can resonate so powerfully within me, there will be more of those nuggets within.
And as Heather King, memorist and modern-day mystic, said last month in her blog, Shirt of Flame, "I read for the emotion, the feel, the sense of other possibilities. That click of, 'Someone got it right. Someone described how I have felt, but never been able to articulate,' or posed the question I've been posing all my life without even knowing I was posing it! Or someone told a story that is completely different from my story and yet, amazingly, gloriously, is in some way the same as my story."
I'm assuming, however, that you don't need monastery experience to get something out of the read; that this book will satisfy the promptings of anyone who has ever desired visiting such a place. This may be your introduction, your peek inside, and that's a good first step.
Q4U: Have you ever experienced a day or portion of a day when prayer became the day itself?
Thursdays don't generally get much attention on my blog, but this week is special. It's "7 for 7" - seven posts in seven days. It's all in preparation for what will be mostly silence here for the 40 days of Lent. This week is my indulgence of words, you might say, as I explain here.
I wanted my Thursday post to be lighthearted -- just a little something to make your day. So I thought of thoughtfulness as a theme, and that brought to mind something I'd shared this weekend with my Facebook friends.
Sunday night, I'd taken my two youngest boys out for "coffee." No one actually had coffee. I had tea, and they had hot chocolate and root beer.
I had some paperwork to do and knew it might be something of a risk to attempt it at a small table with three drinks plus water and a son who isn't known for his grace. Sure enough, not too far into our stay we had a root beer explosion, and it was all over my papers. The falling root beer bottle had knocked over my cup of tea to make it doubly drippy. It was a grand mess.
We got it all cleaned up and my son -- the spiller -- decided he wanted to buy a root beer to replace the one he'd spilled, and he thought that just maybe he had enough change to get the job done. He laid out his coins on the table -- $2 in nickels, dimes and pennies. He then cajoled his older brother to come with him to the counter to make his purchase.
A few minutes after they tromped off to said counter, our youngest came dancing back to the table with a huge grin on his face and two crisp dollar bills in his hands.
I'd seen the cops come in but hadn't noticed them up at the counter. Apparently, after Nick had made his purchase with his coin collection, one of the police officers had replenished the money he'd lost on the root beer with two new dollar bills. Our little guy was in heaven to say the least.
"Here, you forgot your root beer." It was the barista, who'd come to find our thirsty boy. In all his excitement, he'd failed to bring his purchase back to our table.
What was fun for me in all of this, aside from the heart-warming elements of knowing a cop had made my son's day, was watching others' reactions. It caused a bit of a stir in the quiet, evening atmosphere of the shop. The two gals near us, around college age, had huge grins on their faces as they watched all this play out (we weren't exactly quiet as mice), and the barista, too, seemed to be getting a kick out of the whole thing and her part in it.
Generosity is an alive thing. From the initial acting out of a kind thought, something heartening happens and spreads, and onlookers, if any, can't help but feel lighter as well.
"Did you thank him?" I asked my son.
"Um, I think so."
"Well I want to make sure. Go back and tell him thank you, just to make sure."
So he did. Better to be safe than sorry, or as a friend once told me, to err on the side of love.
But I especially loved it when my son decided to share his "reward" with his older brother, who had come away from the scene with empty hands. It didn't happen right off, but eventually, the moment of recognition came: if older brother had not accompanied him to the counter, he may never have found the courage to approach the counter in the first place. It was definitely a team effort and the result was divided in two.
My sharing this on Facebook elicited some great responses. The "random act of kindness" moment grew beyond the coffee shop as readers delighted in the act of one kind police officer to a young boy.
People want to hear about surprises, to be reminded that good still exists in the world, and that at bottom, our good hearts have not left us. Also, policemen aren't our enemies. They're there to help us, and on occasion, make a kid's day.
Q4U: Have you been the recipient of an act of random kindness lately? I'd love to hear about it!