My Journey to Easter

Last year on Palm Sunday, the rector of our large, young, and vibrant Episcopal parish, St. Michael’s in Raleigh, announced–only half in jest–that we might want to consider attending the Easter Vigil on Saturday night rather than trying to find a parking space and a seat for any of the three Easter services. I actually followed his advice and so saw the first lighting of the paschal candle and heard the first alleluias of Easter. However, the experience wasn’t so thrilling as the festival Easter service with brass and harp and choir and hundreds of pastel-clad worshippers proclaiming in unison, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

This year, I decided on something entirely different. I went to the “find a church” page for the diocese of North Carolina, and I clicked on parish after parish until I found one that seemed small and intimate, reminiscent of my first Episcopal family at St. Christopher’s in Garner. Combining those criteria with a manageable drive for Easter morning, I selected St. John’s in Battleboro. Continue reading

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Good Friday: Meditation without Words

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona

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Love One Another–but Not on the Streets of Fayetteville NC

I am writing this post during Holy Week, when Christians worldwide pray and fast and join together in humble worship as they prepare for the annual observation of the Passion, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Today is Maundy Thursday, commemorated as the day when Jesus, after having his last supper with his disciples, washed their feet as a symbol of servanthood and enjoined them to follow his example, saying, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 RSV). Continue reading

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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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