Miracles Do Happen–If We Listen

Kevin Vortmann as the Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein’s MASS (photo courtesy of the University of South Carolina School of Music)

Saturday, March 4, in Columbia, South Carolina, I witnessed what I can describe only as a miracle, the University of South Carolina’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS. By Monday, when I could not stop pondering–seeing, hearing, singing–those 110 minutes of capital-T Truth, I understood what made that miracle and learned, I hope, to be alert for the next one. In short, as I reflected on the path that led me to this rare opportunity, I realized that sometimes, the confluence of a series of disparate events can lead to a moment of clarity and understanding so momentous that James Joyce likened it to the Epiphany, the manifestation of the Son of God to the Gentiles. Yes, that’s what happened to me in South Carolina on March 4–and, I suspect, to many others. But it happened only because we had our ears and our hearts open to the experience. Continue reading

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A Monday Mystery

What is it? Please make your guess as a comment on the blog.

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Lent Lite and the Cult of the Selfie

So began a recent exchange on Twitter. I seldom take the bait, but this is Lent, after all. Two days before reading this message, I had eschewed chocolates, roses, and a decadent dinner in favor of ashes, penitence, and the reminder that I am but dust. During my sixty-mile daily commute, I had also been pondering the nature of the Lenten fast, realizing once again that just as no good I do can possibly earn God’s grace, so nothing I sacrifice can possibly match my need for self-denial and repentance. Continue reading

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100 at 65

Vicki Anne Bozzola with her mother, Jane; February 1953

Arbitrarily, we deem specific anniversaries more significant than others. The numbers that would seem the most noteworthy are the primes, but we have opted to recognize the boring and uncreative numbers instead. We celebrate multiples of 5 and 10 for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other milestones. And of course, we offer special recognition to milestones that confer new privileges–16 for driving, 18 for voting, and 21 for buying alcohol and handguns.

Today, I observe two of these arbitrary anniversaries. Most significantly, I turn 65–a multiple of 5 that previously also conferred eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits; I’m a little too young for that entitlement, but a shiny new Medicare care is already in my wallet (actually, it’s paper and not shiny at all). Coincidentally (well, with a bit of foresight), this post also represents my 100th since Just(e) Words made its debut in May 2016.  Continue reading

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Pas Moi

In a little over four months, the United States has turned into a Kafka novel. Amazingly, it was only on October 5 of last year that The New York Times broke its story of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and October 14 when I wrote about my own horrified reactions. I could never have predicted what a circus would ensue–laughable in its details until one considers the lives forever upended by the accusations of a growing mob of women clamoring for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Continue reading

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Days +1 to +1,097–and Counting

(continued from yesterday’s “Happy (Third) Birthday, Pavel”)

Although the months and years of uncertainty regarding insurance coverage and treatment and prognosis took a big toll on our lives, the days and weeks immediately post-transplant were some of the most difficult of the entire seven years since Pavel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  He had to remain in the transplant unit for about two weeks as his blood counts slowly recovered and another two weeks in Chapel Hill for frequent monitoring at the clinic. He was weak and fatigued, and he had lost his senses of smell and taste. He had severe restrictions of activity and diet for at least entire six months.  He could not work in the yard, clean the litter boxes, or be around crowds. He had to wear a mask when he left the house and could not eat raw fruits and vegetables–or sushi! And of course there was the endless waiting for the next CT scan, the next blood test, the next visit to the oncologist. Continue reading

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Happy (Third) Birthday, Pavel!

Today, we celebrate the third anniversary of my husband’s stem-cell transplant–also known as his new birthday, January 20, 2015. Clearly, this day was a significant milestone in Pavel’s life and in our relationship. I believe, however, that telling the story might also be of benefit to others. Some might find the procedure itself as fascinating as I do–the details of a medical miracle unfolding day by day. Others–those diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and the ones who care for them–might gain strength or hope from learning of one man’s multi-decade battle with cancer. Mostly, though, I would like to share with everyone the dailyness of the experience. A diagnosis of cancer need not shape one’s life. Rather, it can be just another of the many challenges one must meet with grace, face with dignity, and learn from with humility. It can even be a source of inspiration and gratitude. These are the lessons I have learned from two husbands with cancer and from all the courageous men and women who shared the same experience and often turned it into a blessing in the lives of others. Continue reading

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St. Roch: A Lesson in Faith

According to the Golden Legend (translated into English by William Caxton in 1483 as The Lives of the Saints), St. Roch/Rocke was born in the 14th century into a noble family in the city of Montpelier. His parents had prayed for an heir, and when their son was born, he had a small cross on his left shoulder, “a token that he should be acceptable and beloved of God”; the cross grew as he grew. Continue reading

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Celebrate: Advent Word 23 (but it’s Christmas!)

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Believe: Advent Word 22

December 24, 2017
This morning, we awoke on the last Sunday of Advent. We opened the final window of the Advent calendar, lighted the fourth candle of the Advent wreath, and sang for the last time during this liturgical cycle, “Come, thou long-expected Jesus.” In place of a Psalm, we read Canticle 15, The Magnificat. The Gospel reading, Luke 1:26-38, told of the Annunciation–Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to the Son of God. And the powerful sermon by the Rev. Jim Melnyk began with a meditation on that miraculous encounter, when like Mary, the angel Gabriel trembled as he awaited the “thoughtful yes of a young girl.” The priest invited us to be similarly open to the coming of the Lord into our own lives and encouraged us to breathe our own thoughtful and longing yes on this last day of Advent anticipation. And then we sang, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” that haunting Advent hymn that ends with the glorious promise, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” Continue reading

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