When husband and wife are united in marriage, they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself. — Saint John Chrysostom
And then I read about one of the saints commemorated on February 14: Damian the New. He was a martyr, from sixteenth-century Arahova. We visited his beautiful little mountain town (Arahova) in Greece this past October, in the Parnassus Mountains, near Delphi. In fact, we saw the first snow of the season (on the mountains behind us in this picture) and also went to Vespers at the nearby Monastery of Ossios Loukas. You can read more about this visit in my blog post of October 24, here.
And now for a smooth segue from saints to skirts… the February issue of skirt! Magazine has two thoughtful essays. The first one that caught my attention was “Loving Unlovable People,” by Patti Digh. It’s a story of learning to forgive an “inventive and dazzling teacher” who was sent to prison in 2002 for “hundreds of counts of first degree statutory sexual offense, sexual activity with students by a school teacher, and first degree kidnapping of two male students.”
As Digh says, “What happens to a life?” As she grieves the loss of this person who had a positive impact on her young life, she considers whether or not to reach out to him by writing him a letter. Her confusion, grief and compassion touched me:
I don’t condone what Mr. Snow did and am repelled by his actions….I wish his life had taken such a different trajectory, he is so talented. But it went in this direction, and now Mr. Snow is Inmate #0787172. But he is still under there somewhere, the Mr. Snow I knew. Isn’t he? I’m not sure what writing to Mr. Snow will mean for either one of us, but I do know that in reaching out to him and extending love to him, I have found an important part of myself. He is providing me a glimpse into a world I would otherwise not know; I am a link to the world out here. Together we are navigating the difficult part of loving others.
What a brave love story. There’s a wonderful man at my church who has ministered to prisoners for many years. He has brought a number of those prisoners to St. John when they were released, and one has become a member. I’ve learned a lot about love from this gentle soul who has given his life reaching out to people like Mr. Snow… believing, like Patti Digh, that they are “still under there somewhere.”
The second story in the February issue of skirt! that struck a chord with me was Dorothy Cresswell’s “Bridge of Forgiveness.” It’s not available online at the skirt! web site, but if you see a copy of the February issue in a newsstand, you might want to pick it up to read this. It’s about a divorced husband and wife coming together to celebrate one of their grandchildren’s birthdays. An event at which they shared tears, apologies, forgiveness and hugs. Cresswell reflects on her x-husband at the end of the party:
He was truly a good man who had a drinking problem and lost everything he loved…. Today I realize that I love that man; that hurting, healing, loving man. I do not want to live with him. I know that would never work now. But I do love that tender soul who loves my children and grandchildren. I love that we have lived to apologize. I love that there is another soul on this planet who remembers what my daughter looked like at one year old.
If you don’t have any Kleenex nearby, just use your shirt sleeve… I did.
I’ll close with a teaser for my next post: in lieu of chocolate and flowers, my husband is taking me to Oxford (Mississippi) tonight for the Thacker Mountain Radio Show. It was my request. The music and atmosphere will be fun (it’s at Off Square Books) but I especially want to meet Kim Sunee and hear her read from her book, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home. Her blog is here. Kim’s a Korean adoptee, like my two younger “children” (now 25 and 26). I’ve already emailed her about meeting her tonight and getting autographed copies of her book for my kids and me. Maybe I’ll have some photos and comments from the evening to post in a couple of days.
I’ll close on a lighter note. This is the Valentine’s Day card I sent to my childhood friend, Jan, who lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Jan was one of the first of my women-friends to ever say to me, “put your big girl panties on and deal with it.” I can take that from Jan… we’ve known each other since we were eight and nine years old. She was Maid of Honor in my wedding (when we were a big, grown up 18 and 19 years old!) We’ve both lived through some pretty dysfunctional family stuff (our families were “best friend families” in the 50s and 60s) and have nursed mothers with Alzheimer’s. So, much love to Jan, and all my family and friends on this day of love and forgiveness. And Happy Feast Day to Saint Damian the New!