As a young girl, I attended a very small, missionary Catholic Church. In our little church building, the floor boards creaked and slanted with a low ceiling hanging over us. Many of the congregants only spoke English as a second language. Our leader was a Hungarian priest who was lovingly nicknamed Father B. The church later grew to house thousands of parishioners with a beautifully appointed interior, but at that time Mass came to life in a very humble space. As these last wintery months have crawled forward, my mind has been sifting through experiences of days gone by. The chorus of a song that I first learned there at St. Francis so many years ago has risen to the surface. I remember the feeling of being near my Mother singing that song, sitting in one of those creaky, hard pews and an emotion rising up in me like a tide. The song begins with a very soft and gentle description of a God who is present in the seas and the sky and of a God who is listening. Eventually it comes to the chorus. This is where I choke up—even now—as I relive this powerful song from my past. It is all beautiful, but it is in the chorus that we come upon a poignant phrase—one that might align well with most belief systems. “Here I am, Lord.” This line is sung very slowly—deliberately, even. It goes on as a lovely offering, but the words that I keep coming back to are these three. Here I Am. Here I am, Earth. Here I am, Love. Here I am, Friend. Here I am, Son. Here I am, Self. I see you. I am listening. How may I help? Maybe I cannot help, but Here I Am. This is my prayer today—and every day—here I am.
In the late fall, we made an harrowing attempt at transforming an outside-wall, gigantic fireplace in our home on the very windy coast of Maine into a wood burning stove. Once inserted, our stove had brilliant moments of burning intensely and shaping our large and drafty living room into what felt like a toasty ski lodge. There were other moments in which smoke came billowing into our home unexpectedly with the force of the fierce winds outside. In the process of trying to remedy this situation, we were introduced to a father and son team of chimney experts. They felt familiar to me from the start. The father was from Boston and had some of the characteristics of my father, of my Uncle. I will call the son, Greg. They were interested in my children and very caring about what we were going through with the fireplace. The first time I met Greg—a tall and unassuming man in his mid-30s—I noticed a turning down in his smile, in his eyes, that evidenced to me a deep pain. He was very sweet with my boys and interacted with them readily. I thought about asking him if he had children but I didn’t at first. The next time we met, I did ask him. There was a dramatic pause between us and he looked down heavily, his head drooping. I could see him catch his breath. Finally he said, “I did have a 7 month old son.” He went on to tell me a very tragic story of his loss and the death of his son. His father saw that we were talking and began engaging my boys. We talked for a long while. There were tears rising and falling from his eyes as he expressed his dismay and deep pain. He showed me pictures of his beautiful son and told me details as if we were old friends. Mostly I just listened. I offered to support he and his wife in whatever way that I could and gave him my phone number. His story lived in me for a long while. We crossed paths a couple of times after that and it was clear that we were bound. He is looking forward to a vacation! They had such fun! His wife is pregnant! They are waiting to hear whether they are having a boy or girl.
Spring has finally arrived in Maine! Our final snow—we hope—landed discreetly in the night ten days ago. Yesterday, Jonah, Adrian and I discovered a bed of crocuses flowering in a very sunny spot with a bee busy doing its work of moving pollen around. Jonah joined in when he discovered a bit of pollen himself and began blowing it off of his fingers. There is construction work going on at our house again and we are displaced at the moment. This morning I traveled back there to feed my kitty, Autumn. It is a glorious day with sun rays bursting through the clouds after a morning rain— a day unlike anything we have seen in Maine for months and months and months. When I arrive home, there are many trucks in our driveway that I recognize but there is someone pulling in ahead of me that I am not sure of—I think it must be one of the workers but when I get out of my car I see someone bounding toward me and this person—his face—just lights up. It is Greg and he looks so happy! We had offered his father the cabinets that we are replacing in our home but I didn’t expect to see Greg at all. He bounds toward me and he is thanking me for the cabinets and he is telling me the good news. His face is beaming. His wife is doing well and they will be welcoming a baby girl in August. Here I am. Here he is. Here we all are. I see you. I hear you. I am you.