On a cold January day in a time before COVID, after several months of battling cancer, weeks in and out of the hospital, and finally intensive care, my brother-in-law died peacefully around noon, his wife, my sister, at his bedside.
Transfigurations appear to take place at one precise moment, but often they are the culmination of a gradual process of seeing people through different eyes until we are startled by the affection and admiration we feel for this person or are thrown off balance by a kind or courageous act we never dreamed possible coming from this person.
Growing up in the flat Midwest, my idea of a hill was a small bump we named “Devil’s Hill” and rode our sleds down in the winter. No wonder real mountains fascinated me.
People say, “Come hell or high water” to describe dogged determination. But hell or high water create determination, too.
A friend of mine is a Trappistine nun who spends a good part of each day in silent prayer. She once told me the hardest adjustment she faced when entering the monastery was realizing how much “noise” was going on inside her heart and head—especially at times of silent prayer.
“But you promised!” When my mother heard my friend Murray say this to me, I knew instinctively that, at 12 years of age, I was about to learn a very important life lesson, like it or not.
His connection to romance is a stretch, but Saint Valentine, an early Christian martyred by the Romans, did sacrifice his life for love—of Christ. Last Election Day, I witnessed eight women who were willing to do the same for love—of their community.
What is it about human beings that we have such a need to divide people into the “ins” and the “outs”? It starts young. When I was in kindergarten, Charlie Goebig decided that one unfortunate girl in our class had cooties and that we should all run from her on the playground.
Every day of my third-grade year started with the same routine: My sister and I would board the school bus braced for the abuse that would be hurled my way by a handful of older boys—seventh- and eighth-graders—who took offense to my very pronounced overbite.
Our family doctor was brought to Chicago by Mother Cabrini herself to care for the growing Italian immigrant population. Ten months before I was born, my sister had died of Polio at the age of 7. My mother was left struggling through a difficult pregnancy.