Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Visit to "Holy Mountain"

"Holy Mountain" is supposedly what people call Graymoor, the home of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, located in Garrison NY. My cousin and her husband visit Graymoor regularly and they offered to give me a tour. Graymoor has chapels and shrines dedicated to a variety of Saints, including St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Bernadette, Our Lady of Fatima and many more, all set on beautiful gardens seemingly designed to inspire peaceful meditation, prayer or just a few minutes of awe soaking in God's amazing handiwork.

This is in the St. Jude Meditation Garden which among other things includes the statue of Our Lady of Medjugorje, which was blessed by Our Lady herself during the apparitions, and the World Trade Center Cross.This is the World Trade Center Cross which was constructed and dedicated by the Ironworkers of Local 40 NYC to those who lost their lives on 9/11. The cross is made of steel girders with a concrete base using ashes and steel from the World Trade Center site.Our Lady of Fatima and the three shepherd children she appeared to.St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes.

This was a wonderful experience which I hope to repeat on my own so that I can dedicate more time to peaceful and quite contemplation and prayer.

A Gem on the Hudson

This Saturday morning I met my cousin and her hubby for breakfast at a small cafe in the Village of Cold Spring. While the main purpose of the trip was to visit Graymoor (a separate post to come), Cold Spring was selected as a meeting point for us and it turned out to be a welcomed surprise for me. I'd never been to this quaint little village that lies on the banks of the Hudson River but I will definitely be returning for a visit. Given the early morning hour (8:00 am), none of the wonderful little shops which line the main street were open, but the beautiful storefronts with any number of antique shops to choose from for window shopping, and also some unique and charming gift shops more than made up for it. All of this with the added bonus of a breathtaking waterfront to enjoy the natural beauty of the Hudson.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm a G(l)eek

“By its very definition, Glee is about opening yourself up to joy.” The quote appears within the first minute of Glee’s pilot episode, and while the quote refers to William McKinley High School’s glee club it could just as easily be referring to the show itself. I loved it!

The show is a musical comedy that tells the story of a young and idealistic Spanish teacher, and former member of the glee club during its glory days, who takes on the seemingly dauntless task of restoring the glee club to its heyday and (dare he dream) making it all the way to Nationals. The show will have you cheering, smiling, and singing along to a great soundtrack.

Unfortunately (boo to Fox), the show doesn’t start until the Fall. This little slice of joy was just a teaser meant to keep us eagerly awaiting its official start. Let me say -- I can’t wait for Fall! (Note to self: patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I bought and started reading "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination" by Elizabeth McCracken months ago, well prior to my mom passing. I recently picked it up again, despite all instincts of self-preservation saying not to read a sad book when you're already sad, but insanity won out.

The book is a memoir chronicling the story of Elizabeth McCracken, a writer, teacher, and spinster ("I would never have called myself single" she says. "The word suggests a certain willingness to flirt in bars.") who falls in love with Edward Harvey, also an author and gets married. Together, Elizabeth and Edward continue to write and travel, including to Berlin, Denmark, Ireland, and Paris. During one such trip to France, Elizabeth finds out that she's pregnant. She says "I loved being pregnant. Whatever hormones had shaken together in my bloodstream, it was an agreeable cocktail." They referred to the baby as Pudding. Pudding, what are you up to? they'd say to her stomach. In the last month of her pregnancy the unthinkable happens and after a frantic visit to the midwife, and then later to the hospital, their greatest fears are realized when an ultrasound confirms that the baby has died in utero and she has to deliver it. As Elizabeth says "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending." Luckily the books doesn't end there, it also tells what happened next, not only the heartbreak, the sense of blame, the sense of sameness, the escape from France and its memories, but also the return back home, and almost a year later finding out she's pregnant again and having a happy healthy baby to love with the knowledge that the love for the first magnifies the love for the second, and vice versa.

I would definitely recommend this book. I've grieved and I'm grieving for a loved one lost, but never, thank God, a child. I can't even begin to imagine the grief of a parent losing a child. The story is lovingly and honestly told, and while the main storyline centers on a child lost, it really also deals with grief in general and how we relate to one another, how we cope, and how there never really is closure. As the author says "I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on but that death goes on too, that a person who is dead will never disappear from view. Your friends may say, time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance which commemorates U.S. men and women who died serving their country. In the hustle and bustle of every day life, it's so easy to overlook the true meaning and purpose of Memorial Day, and instead celebrate the mere fact of a day off from work.

Today, I give thanks to all those soldiers who gave their lives in wars past protecting this beautiful country, and all those soldiers who today stand ready to give their life doing the same. I thank them for their many sacrifices; for being far from home and family in faraway lands, for risking life and limb for our freedom, and for giving up their peaceful slumber so that we can be safe.

In particular, this Memorial Day I give thanks to my incredible nephew, Anthony, who served in Iraq for 15 months (thankfully, he's home safe and sound) and makes us proud each and every day.

Thank you to my Anthony, and the countless men and women -- the true heroes -- who give so much without fame or glory.

Saying Goodbye

On Mother's Day, May 10,2009, mom passed away after suffering another stroke. As we've always done in the past, we faced all momentous occasions together, and this proved no exception, as I was by her side holding her hand when she took her last breath. Those last moments are indelibly etched in my mind as ones of incredible peace and sorrow, and beauty, because in the end she looked truly beautiful. With the sorrow, there was a full measure of gratitude to God for allowing me to be by her side in those moments so she didn't leave this Earth alone. Right to the end, she felt my love.

As my brother said in his eulogy: "God has chosen to take one of his most beautiful creations back to the heavens." I will be forever grateful to the Lord for blessing me with her as my mother, and I will love her today, tomorrow and forever.

I'm at peace because I know she's in a much better place, that she's no longer suffering, yet I'm brokenhearted that she's no longer with me. It's not easy to say goodbye to the most important person in your life. The person that defined who you were. But it's in moments like this that I'm so grateful for my faith, because without it the grief would be unbearable. Thanks to my faith, I take heart in the knowledge that God willing, after a life well-lived, we will be reunited and that her beautiful face will be the first I see in heaven.

I found great solace in this beautiful poem:

When I Must Leave You
By Helen Steiner Rice
When I must leave you for a little while-
Please do not grieve and shed wild tears
And hug your sorrow to you through the years.
But start out bravely with a gallant smile;
And for my sake and in my name
Live on and do all things the same.
Feed not your loneliness on empty days,
But fill each waking hour in useful ways,
Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer
And I in turn will comfort you and hold you near;
And never, never be afraid to die
For I am waiting for you in the sky!