Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On Movement

A handwritten letter came in the mail a few days ago from a friend of mine who lives in Chicago. She is a member of a religious community of sisters and has been retired for many years. She has remained healthy and active throughout all her years as a professed religious. About a year ago, her community decided it was time to relocate. They will soon be moving to Iowa to a larger retirement facility. It is a beautiful place – I visited there a few years ago. It is a lovely spot, high on a hill with a clear view of the Mississippi River.
My friend is very upset and anxious about the move. I can understand that. For years, she felt at ease with the sense of stable familiarity that her home offered in Chicago. I think her love for the place deepened as the years passed. Being an outgoing and giving person, her life expanded through the growing family of people who befriended her all through the years. Chicago offered her a rich life. I can sense in her recent letters a deep sense of sadness and a gnawing anxiety. But she knows that in the overall picture, the move is a necessary one for her community. But that knowledge does not assuage her apprehensions and her dread of going through the process of relocating.
So I wrote to her and tried to find words that might ease her situation. I had to dig a bit into my own past to find them.
I well remember many moves I made in my life. In my younger years, I moved from rectory to rectory as parish assignments changed. It was hard to say good-bye to friends and to allow time to sink roots in a new place with new people. I bounced around quite a lot. My family moved, too, from one state to another. My brothers and sisters gradually moved to different states. Our mom and dad retired in Louisiana, the place where they grew up. They raised us in New York, New Jersey and, lastly, Connecticut. Looking back, it isn’t too difficult to recall the discomfort of all that movement. But once I arrived in a new place, there were people who went out of their way to make me feel at home, to settle me down and draw me into their lives. Friendship has been an abiding gift to me, offered all along these meandering corridors of life.
There are not many of us who can escape some serious movement in life. Even if we stay still in a place for a long time, we can get knocked off our feet by the changes brought on through the ravages of loss or illness and other unexpected wallops that can destabilize our comfort zones.
Iowa is a beautiful place. As I write this, there are people there who are preparing all kinds of welcomes for a newcomer who is coming from Chicago. They will go out of their way to find out about her likes, her favorite things and will offer these and more to her. They will make a home for her through the wondrously woven tapestries of friendship. She will receive what she has so freely given her life.
And then the move will soon lose its sting.
When the Big Move comes from this life to the next, it is common place for us to wish Eternal Rest to the blessed departed.
Yet I wonder if that is such a good or even real thing.
Growth entails movement. There is nothing in the universe that is not moving. Even God moved from somewhere to here. And there are the mysteries of movements within the Trinity itself. An eternal give and take of love – which is shared with us, which is why we are here and why we are going to the Ultimate “there” of eternity.
Jesus said that there are many mansions in the Kingdom of his Father. There might be moving vans too. Someday, there will come a young woman wanting to find a nice big house, high on a hill, a lovely spot from where can be seen the moving waters of the River of Life. She will want a big home, large enough for her to welcome friends who will come from Chicago. But there will be others. Friends will visit her from a place she grew to love most of all in the late afternoon of her life, a place called Iowa.

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