Mary Beth Writes

First written 2/18/2017

Yesterday was the funeral of Jack Jude. I met him off and on over the years we lived in Racine.  He was a smart, compassionate, wide-thinking, justice-for-all judge in Racine County. We were not close friends but we knew each other, and talked from time to time when we ran into each other in the Law Enforcement Center. Twice, when I encountered complicated legal snafus in regards to the guys I worked with, I called him. He would listen and then suggest options and strategies.

I know Jack’s unexpected death has rocked many lives.

Today is a funeral in Chicago, of a good friend’s aunt. This aunt was creative, sophisticated, laughed easily and had many adventures in her life. She provided a window to the world for her niece, my friend.

Last night late I received an email from another friend that her dad passed away yesterday. He was an awesome dad from the generation where so many of them were not. He was curious, could-fix-anything, was a loving and faithful family man and orchard farmer.

I woke this morning to a clear azure sky, a blue jay in the neighbor’s tree, a hawk streaking past our window, a squirrel tap dancing over our heads, the promise of a day of warm breezes.

There is something so impossible about death on a sunny day. When the world is gray and bleary, we can kind of take in what’s happening. But not on a day like these days; bursting with light and warmth.

My dad’s funeral was on a September day like today. Sunny, balmy, breezy, jarringly beautiful. After the funeral dozens of people came to our house to eat the food they all brought. Someone had sliced a huge turkey roasting pan of fresh peaches and then sprinkled them with brown sugar. I ate nothing but peaches that afternoon. Bowl after bowl of sweet, probably freshly-picked local peaches.

After a while my brother (who was just 19 that year) said he couldn’t stand to be inside anymore and was going out to work on the tool shed my dad had been building. Did I want to help?

The rest of that day we stayed outside, away from the mourners. Paul hammered and sawed. I sat cowboy style on an empty 50-gallon barrel, rocking from side to side. I was 14 years old, full of peaches, warmed by the sun, and cooled by breezes. It was gorgeous afternoon and I have never understood in words how that luscious memory would become my strongest memory of the day my father was laid to rest.

My theology teacher Paul Hessert once said, “Without silence, one could not have music.  It’s the quiet, empty spaces between the notes that turn sound into music.”

I think a funeral on a sunny day is something like that. An empty space that allows us to rest in the beauty that is around us.

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Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

Advent Light Post 12/24/2020

Judy Saunders. Photo of a Rose.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As folks of old have sung.
It came a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.

...

Len and I were delivering presents to Chicago yesterday. Social distancing, with masks, but we did it and we saw our kids’ faces and there’s your Christmas, Ma’am.

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