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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I bring her some food I made, and she shares how much she loves it.

She eats enthusiastically, with noise and abandon.

She thanks those who help her with even the most personal of cares, most genuinely.

We admire the flowers her friends have brought her, and she begins to weep in gratitude for her friends who continue to visit her, even when she is staying confined to a room.

She glows at the photographs of her family.

Mary V is teaching me how to die while I knit at the side of her bed.

Karen E

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Oh that is beautiful. Thank you Karen, for this story about Mary V. And all goodness to you, at the side of the bed, with the knitting, and care and attention.

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Thank you Karen. Sometimes, no, often, I feel that learning how to die is one of our missions in life. Blessings to you.

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And to you, M

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this is such a touching story. it actually is a poem, to me. thank you for sharing.

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Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you

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What a blessing, Karen, to have a guide through a journey our culture tends to want to ignore.

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Thank you, L

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022

my mother of blessed memory AND me AND the knitting. Thank you for this. A poem to keep at the side of my bed to honor her.

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I love knitting, partly for the creativity and relaxation, but also because it connects me to my ancestors.

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very much the same for me.

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Oh, Amy. Thank you.

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This is so beautiful! Especially since I just spent the last few hours at the side of a dear friend who died. I feel so graced that I got to be with her as she took her last breath.

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This is so beautiful!

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Thank you, Jo

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Thank you sharing this beautiful story and beautiful human being.

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Thank you, K, for taking the time to read and comment.

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thank you for sharing this.

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You are welcome

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Schwinn

by George Bilgere

One day my mother astonished me

by getting astride my bike,

the heavy old balloon-tired Schwinn

I used for my afternoon paper route,

and pedaling away down the street,

skirt flying, hair blown back,

a girl again in the wind and speed

that had nothing to do

with pulling double shifts at the hospital,

or cooking meatloaf, or sewing up my jeans,

the old bike carrying her away

from my father dead of booze,

and her own nightly bottle

of red wine in front of the news.

She flew down the road so far

I could barely see her,

then slowly pedaled back to me,

and stepped off the bike, my mom again.

“Schwinn” by George Bilgere from Blood Pages. University of Pittsburgh Press © 2018.

This poem gave me fresh eyes on my relationship with my mother. I felt that the poet gave me permission to let my mother be an individual. Simple, but took 67 years to get to.

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That is beautiful - the poem, and the story. How complicated it is to know how to look at family members as individuals. For me, too, it's taken decades. Thank you.

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Thanks so much for this reflection and invitation. And thanks again for last week. My time with you at Omega Institute nourished my mind, body, and soul. (Also, thank you to Amy, Toby, Larry, Jackson, and a woman from Virginia whose name I can’t remember for their kindness and conversations.)

Here’s a prose poem I wrote earlier this year that answers your question. Sort of.

I don’t write much poetry. I usually just stick to writing CNF and leave poems for reading, prayer, and contemplation. But I *enjoy* writing poems, so maybe I will write more poems. But not for submitting. For fun. For me. For here?

Virginia Woolf Sits at My Kitchen Table While I Make Potato and Leek Soup

Her body, wrapped in a fur coat--the one from that old photo, fills my son’s chair. I love that photo. Her face rests in her hand. Eyes wide. Did the photographer ask her to open her eyes wide? “Raise your brows a bit. Yes. Perfect.”

Now she sits where my son spilled glass after glass of milk when he was three. (I cleaned up so much spilled milk that year. I’m sure I missed some spots.) She drinks tea with milk and smokes cigarettes. I offer her a shallow dish for ash then bum one after the soup comes to a boil, after I turn down the heat.

We don’t speak. We listen to the soup simmering and the fridge humming and the inhales and exhales, the deep breaths of two women who know they are unknown even though they spill so much of themselves into this world.

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Thank you, Charlotte -- for being there, for the kindness and support, and for this gorgeous litany of names you mention here. Yes. I'd list them all if I could remember.

Soup and cigarettes and electricity humming, and deep breaths. Gorgeous. Thank you for the poem too.

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💚💚💚

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I'm so glad to see you here after being in your presence at Omega last week!

This is a gorgeous poem, Charlotte. I especially love how your words brought me into your kitchen (past and present) with the spilled milk, simmering soup, humming fridge... and the presence of Virginia Woolf who silently smokes with you as you cook - so very lovely in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this here.

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Thanks so much for your kind comment! And it's good to be here!

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I look forward to one day having a kitchen table to sit at with company or alone and smoke. Your story has inspired me to imagine who I might invite to sit. And now I'm remembering the time I listened to the On Being interview with Mary Oliver and how it delighted me to hear her sucking on a cigarette and how she made the same rattling sounds that my Nan did, smoking at her breakfast room table when I was little.

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Oh I love this so much. Now I need to listen to the Mary Oliver interview again. I smoked cigarettes briefly during my sophomore year of college way back in 1994 and still occasionally dream of smoking. If Virginia Woolf ever shows up at my kitchen table with a pack of cigarettes, I’m definitely partaking.

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Haha! I took up a pipe (an odd childhood ambition!) recently but then stopped again once I realised I was living my days at the mercy of tobacco cravings. I've always listened to the unedited versions of the podcast since hearing this episode.

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💚💚💚

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This is beautiful. I love how you sandwiched the story between the spilled milk and spilling so much of yourselves into the world. It's great that you can have a 'conversation' with someone that influences your writing. I think Austin Kleon calls it our 'creative linage'.

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Thank you! And I love the term “creative lineage”!

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Charlotte, that final stanza is wonderful. Such spaciousness and mystery. Thank you.

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💚💚💚

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Beautiful poem and story. I could see and feel the strength of presence in that very moment. Thank you.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I have a friend named Jenny Sayquois (Je ne sais quois). At times I invite her in; more often she shows up uninvited, and I gasp. AND when she's here, there's sure to be a blast of fresh air through the garden of my life -

beauty befall thee...

Marta

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Oh, I love this! I may need to invite her here...

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I belong to a writing workshop through Carlow University in Pittsburgh PA, the Madwomen in the Attic. These are generous, talented women writers (I write poetry) who welcomed me as I began my writing journey after my younger son died from opioid addiction. He was 26. I think of poetry, and of my writing friends, as my bridge across the abyss.

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Thank you Valerie. Yes, what a guide and connection those Madwomen in the Attic have been. Often, we don't know what to say, or do in moments of accompanying such terrible distress and grief - like the grief you know. But your story of them reminds me of how it is that we can just show up, be alongside, hear, let the person discover the words that are coming from them. Thank you for sharing it - you're making bridges for all of us as you share about your bridge across the abyss.

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Thank you so much for your kind words.

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I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart”. ee Cummings

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Thank you.

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"bridge across the abyss". Beautiful. I am touched by your story. My daughter is suffering with opioid addiction right now. Thank you for sharing about your son, and your way across the abyss.

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I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter. It's a dreadful disease. Don't give up hope.

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I can attest how writing helps us work through grief. I am glad you found these generous women and have found a way to use writing to help you through this difficult time.

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

i was lost.

it was early morning in the woods, which i thought i knew.

i was walking a friend’s dog - and needed to get back home to take my daughter to the bus. i started getting panicky. the newly fallen leaves made the paths all blend into each other.

so, i was in a similar predicament as you, padraig…..without a sean :)

ollie, the yellow lab i was with - sensed my anxiety, but kept following my wrong turns

until i began to cry.

i sat down, tears coming fast, and looked up to see ollie far off in another direction. more panic!!! i’ve lost my dear friends dog!

i stood running and calling out to her…and she paused, catching my eye - and she said - just follow me. every time i veered off the wrong way, she backtracked, looked at me, and with such gentleness-guided me back.

thank you for this prompt…….and for bringing me back to this memory.

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Oh thank you. that gorgeous dog! I can see her, and see her turn around to you. You did have a Sean! (I'll tell him).

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

My sister, who died last January, guided me toward beauty. There was nothing like going to an antique store, vintage jewelry show, or boutique with her. Whatever she was collecting is what the rest of us would want a year later. I know it sounds trite and materialistic, but she believed deeply in the beauty and importance of "stuff," and the objects I collected under her influence--and inherited from her--bring me joy.

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I believe you Robin. There are some people who seem to inhabit a bit of the future in their ways of thinking, or art, or perception. They are tuned to something else. I'm sure you miss her. Here, I find myself praising her, and praising the ways that you remember her in antique stores or boutiques. Thank you.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

In 1971 Tim Ellis hired me to take care of a cabin of 12-year-olds at a boys' natural history and expedition camp on the coast of Maine. Among my responsibilities was to herd them across Baxter State Park for a week, culminating in an ascent of Maine's highest peak, Mt. Katahdin. It was a tough week for me, and for the boys … some were simply not at all prepared to walk in the woods and climb up mountains. The last full day, as we clambered up the trail to Chimney Pond in the heart of the mountain with all our gear, along comes Tim, solo, in hightops, on a day hike up the mountain. We all pause to say hello, and he and I talk. Towards our parting, he says to me, "David, this is my mountain, it's mine because someone else gave it to me, and it's mine because I have climbed it so many times. Now, I'd like to give you my mountain, it's yours to enjoy and to pass on to others."

So much about what informs my relationship to the natural world and my own guidance to others is caught up in this simple gift from Tim, given so long ago, far up in Maine.

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How lovely that is: Tim, his mountain, the boys, the conversation between you, the bequeathing - the way you're owned by the mountain and the land and the world, feeling like you're part of it. Thank you David. That's beautiful.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

After briefly pitying myself for having NO guide, I realized my younger sister has been exactly that for years. I discounted her because she's my YOUNGER sister; I'm supposed to be the guide of HER! I guess the truth is that we have guided each other through a simple mutual wish that the other succeeds, whatever that means; probably we just want the other to SURVIVE.

My younger sister has thrown out the light of various of her own guides--including Padraig--and I have picked out the outlines that I needed, and followed them when I needed them. Maybe that's the best, longest-lasting kind of guide, one who wishes me well, and who casts light in a serendipitous manner as we grope our way through the darkness.

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As a “younger sister” who has blazed many independent trails, I appreciate your words and sentiment deeply. The shadows of my older sister are long and wide, and my light has not often been acknowledged or validated as significant. Thank you for looking beyond the “shoulds” of age, towards the beauty of receiving the light from those we least expect.

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ha! That's fantastic. Already there, and a mutual guidance. A friend called me a guide in response to this prompt. And I said the same back. Yes and yes. This is gorgeous Carol, thank you.

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sisters as light casters. wow, thank you. so beautiful.

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I have 7 siblings, all older than me. It’s been an uphill climb in my own psyche to realize that age and wisdom have no relationship.

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Little sisters can be the best teachers, don't you think, Carol? Thank you for this lovely reminder to love her more.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

What a wonderful story, thank you. Ten years after my divorce I met a woman who, at 67 became my wife. She has led me in new directions, helping me to find new ways to deep love and amazing joy. I am grateful and we kid each other about how we might have forty years together. (Thank you Jason Isbell for that loving thought.)

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Oh how lovely to hear of this Lee. New directions and love and joy. And all the time.

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Love Jason Isabell!

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Oops. Isbell - not isabell. Haha

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

On a summer morning

I sat down

on a hillside

to think about God -

a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw

a single cricket;

it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.

How great was its energy,

how humble its effort.

Let us hope

it will always be like this,

each of us going on

in our inexplicable ways

building the universe.

The Song of the Builders

Mary Oliver

I’m just a cricket moving a few grains; aware of vastness yet the value of kindness and warmth in my small existence.

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My grandmother, whom we called Danu (dubbed by the eldest cousin who died before I was born), moved in with our family when my parents divorced. She received a subscription to American Heritage magazine, which was hardbound, and read each cover to cover with deep interest and great enthusiasm. She had no one with whom to share her interests in her new home with us, so she chose me, which suited me just fine because it was those times when she wasn't angry or dissatisfied. She told me that she no longer felt a part of the Christian church as, when she and her husband had troubles with their marriage in Jonesboro, Arkansas their church community essentially shunned them and condemned them for what had happened. The light in the story was Danu saying that she truly believed that The American Indian had the one, true spiritual truth in their reverence for the earth. I was enlightened and encouraged by her tenacious hopefulness.

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From your story i am touched by how loss (the divorce, the loss of community due to moving, the spiritual wounding from the church) can open new connections - her confiding in you, your feeling of encouragement, her new regard for native reverence for the earth). thank you!

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“She had no one with whom to share her interests in her new home with us, so she chose me....”How beautiful.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

One who has guided me: John O’Donohue.

My life has never quite been the same since the written words of this poet, philosopher, mystic danced across my iris, and the lyrical lilting and melodically majestic meditations quivered my heart by way of my eardrum. I miss our Dear John. We miss you dear “soul friend.”

Yours were the shoulder blades that held up the two pillars of truth and tenderness for so many of us who felt lost all this time. And now, as our world feels lost amidst grief and grasping, we need those teachers, companions, guides, who reveal to us, in us, the path woven into the hidden intimacies of life. We all yearn to share our inner most selves, made of mind and heart and bog and stardust.

And still that is the thing we fear the most. What we want most in the world, we fear most in the world. It’s a little like love, isn’t it?

Your friendship on pages and passages will forever be an act of recognition (and a bit of rebellion) in otherworldly belonging. Your presence cuts across dimension and all convention. You are joined to me and my ancestors in an ancient and eternal way.

Between us I’ve never felt the limitations of space or time. For where we long to be cradled, shall never be a cage for the soul. Your love scribes like a secret and sacred signature across the hearts of so many.

I long for the day when everyone can decipher it and learn to write and read a new story of existence and essence. ☘️🇮🇪❤️‍🩹🙏🏻💫✨🪦💔♑️🌑

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Thanks for this Bill. John O'Donohue's friendship and language and permission-giving has shaped so many people's lives. I'm no longer surprised when I hear people from all across the globe say that they turned to him during times of need. "It's a little like love, isn't it?" Yes it is.

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“Your love scribes like a sacred signature across the hearts of so many.”

Well said! Your beautiful words about John O’Donohue resonate with me. Thank you.

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Thank you for this wonderful tribute to O'Donohue. I, too, miss him although I didn't discover him until after his untimely death. Words of his to live by:

I would love to live

like a river flows

carried by the surprise

of its own unfolding

That's a poem worthy of memorization.

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I spent a couple of hours yesterday with my wife and mother-in-law at Boston's MFA exhibit of the official Obama portraits. The portraits themselves are radiant and something to behold. Though I'm an artist, I tend to be impatient in museums. I see and observe quickly and then move on (to let others look? IDK...) My mother-in-law, Suzie, in all of her 87 years, is patient and tenacious. As we stood before the portraits I had the feeling we were interlopers. White people of privilege in a room of mostly black people in awe of the portraits and occasionally moved to tears. I was impatient as ever and leaning like a nervous dog toward the door.

Suzie on the other hand stood very close to the portraits for at least 20 minutes each and I finally realized she was observing the people as much as she was the painting. She may have felt out of place too, but she stood there unhurried observing the faces and expressions before her rather than of the portraits. Oh she was moved by the portraits sure enough!.. but she was moved more by the people, their reactions, their tears and reverence. She was present and guided me toward my own presence. But it took a while.

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I didn't see your name when I was reading this comment, and when I read the first line, I thought "I bet this is John". And there you were. Looking at your looking; and looking at your mother-in-law's looking, and imagining being looked at, and looking back.

Hello to you in all this looking, John.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Hello, Padraig. I hope you are looking well! Thanks for the smile today.

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A silent guide - probably the most powerful. Thank you for sharing this story.

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I had a nun in high school who said my smile lit up the school hallways. I lived in a very dysfunctional family and she had no idea. That small comment made me realize that my smile would see me through many difficult times. Now 52 years after that comment I’m happy to say I have passed that smile on to others every day. A few kind word can make magic.

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It is amazing how a small moment like that can be so powerful. I have a friend, Dominic, who felt very alone as a teenager. Once, walking from one class to another at secondary school, a teacher walked by and said "Hey Dom". The ease of it, the casual abbreviation of his name, he heard himself being spoken back to himself in a way that was a comfort. Years later, he told me that story, and I'm still moved by it. Thank you for sharing this about the nun, Debbie.

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A smile is worth so very much.

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Sister Harriet has been my guide for over 31 years.

When I read Anam Cara, I knew I had been gifted with this beautiful soul mate.

She listens and she has stayed with the struggle to understand when it hasn’t been easy.

We stay with the mystery of our lives.

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All praise Sister Harriet. She -- and so many others -- do this work so powerfully.

Do you know Spencer Reece's long poem "The Road to Emmaus"? It's a gorgeous homage to a friend who's died, and all prompted by the quiet questions of a nun who was a spiritual director.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/54977/the-road-to-emmaus

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I do now! Thank you. Sr. Ann is like my Sr. Harriet.

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