better things ahead

wpid-unfold51

and so a new day begins…

Memory of today…

It is an anniversary–14 years ago today, September 11, our sense of peace and security was shaken to its core. There are few people in this country (born before September 11, 2001) who do not remember where they were on that Tuesday morning.

I can picture exactly where I was as news began to report the attacks in New York, the Pentagon and the plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field. Working as a chaplain in a large teaching hospital, I was always on high alert, prepared to respond to unspeakable traumas every day. This particular morning the routine had been normal — it was time for a cup of coffee, after making first rounds in my assigned units. Sitting with another staff chaplain, we begin to notice small clusters of people gathering to talk about airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered what was to come.

So many people tell a story of how his/her life was changed on that day. The natural response was to search out and contact love ones – to hear their voices or see their faces. On that morning we; myself, my brother and sister, were waiting for our parents to return from a two-week holiday in Paris, France. Their flight was to land in Newark, New Jersey sometime mid-morning. In the blink of an eye their return became a big and scary question. No one knew where these lethal planes had originated and waiting for that news would seem a lifetime. What could we do? How would we find our parents in the midst of such chaos? Mom and Dad had been with my aunt and uncle during those 2 weeks who were still in Paris. I called my uncle’s office, spoke to his secretary and gave her information on how to contact me when/if she received news from my uncle. I then called my brother who lived in Alexandria VA working as a chaplain at a private preparatory school. My sister-in-law answered the phone from their basement. The next exit from their house was the Pentagon. The ground around them shook as a plane crashed into the Pentagon’s walls. The noise of rescue vehicles and helicopters filled the air near their yard and home. Now there was concern for our parents flying around New York and for my brother’s family so very close to another attack. A call to my sister brought some comfort; she and her family were safe, alert and aware.

It was not long before we knew that the planes used for these horrific acts were domestic flights. They had left American cities on course to attack other American cities. Who could do these things? As the day unfolded news began to report that these actions were planned in middle-eastern countries, far away – by people known as terrorists (a term that would become all too familiar in the days and years to follow). Even hearing these details, the question remained — where were the international flights – where were our parents? It was late morning before my pager alerted me to a call from my uncle’s office with news. Mom and Dad would not be landing on American soil, not on that day nor many days to follow. Their plane was on route to an Air Force military base in Gander Newfoundland. Along with many other international flights they would land and remain in Gander for several days while they waited for clearance. A book has been written about this small town’s big heart telling of the important work they did as a part of the 9/11 rescue.

THE DAY THE WORLD CAME TO TOWN – 9/11 in Gander51SePOB7ysL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

As the afternoon waned, the same chaplain and I met again stunned and confused by all that had happened since morning. We knew the long, difficult and emotional work began to recover all the injured and honor all who died. Feeling helpless, we talked about who might need our prayers and support at that moment. We soon found ourselves in a professor’s office at the school of medicine. He was a Muslim and he was sitting alone, feeling the enormity of this day. In silence, we shared prayers for direction and peace.

…where were you?

(revised and re-posted)

Fields of Gold

400858_10150672058236982_415730344_n

There are some years when memories of the past come around with more intensity than others. Each year I come to the birthday of Dr. Mary Beth Foil with a flood of memories – details of a time when reality was softened for a while with a friendship rich in light and creativity. Life is not long enough for many of these friendships. When they occur it is important to pay attention, every moment carries meaning.

The friendship shared between Beth and myself was filled with the sparks of dreams and love. We looked to the future with inspiration and hope. This energy was contagious and we found ourselves surrounded by others eager to imagine with us.

No one was prepared for the sudden loss of this gifted and determined spirit. While in early treatment for breast cancer, her death came suddenly and with little warning. No doubt the way she would have wanted it, the moments to say goodbye were brief. The days to follow were wrapped in sorrow and celebration.

As a hospital chaplain, I have often been present to grief’s unveiling. With all the study and work done to lay out the steps of grief, no one can really predict a person’s response to loss. Like a well, grief is deep but never filled with complete darkness. Within it can glow a light of spirit and stir a song of creation.

In the nine years since her death, I have been grateful for her family’s focus to celebrate and remember on her birthdate. We celebrate her beautiful daughter who has quickly become a young woman and the love she shared with family and friends. We give thanks for her skill in medicine and the lives she touched along the way.

I give thanks for those years we shared, caring for one another and our common passion for healing and wholeness. There are many pieces to the memories of those years. One was my introduction to Eva Cassidy. In honor and memory of Beth – I share this song in hopes that the listener has their own image of these fields…

Fields of Gold

longing for the familiar…

Mickey-Mouse-Home-for-the-Holidays

This day is full of emotion. I think I am feeling challenged by the holidays this year. There is little tradition in this new place I call home – a home I chose with much excitement. For many people it is clear that we are in the season of traditions. Even though I am living in a place of choice, I fight the longing to be somewhere else.

And where would that be? My own family has gone through so much transition in the last twelve months. Each household has moved to a new home which is exciting and unsettling at the same time. I am certain that the search for tradition is a common feeling around the Craig clan right now.

There are many things different this year. I am remembering the parties and gatherings with members of church and friends, the time spent in my parent’s home of 10+ years filled with familiar smells and decorations and the warmth of my favorite restaurants where many friends gathered and celebrations were common. I am remembering my companion of 9 years, Lilly, who is no longer by my side ready to dress her in festive collar and leash.

These are things I miss as I try to make adjustments during these first days of December. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this time of the year. I look forward to the evenings when I decorate my home – filling it with things that reflect my life and faith in preparation for friends and family to gather and celebrate.

This year is very different. I have just returned from my storage unit with three boxes of Christmas decorations. The first box I opened unleashed a flood of memories that took my breath. To get thru this day will be important. With my new home decorated, I hope to feel the comfort of familiar. In the next couple of weeks, I will welcome friends and family as they join me during this holiday. And when all is said and done I will not need to go through another “first” Christmas in this new place, my home.

I am grateful. Surrounded by the beauty of nature and a location filled with creativity, there are many new things to draw my attention and inspire my devotion. I have every reason to be grateful.

With that being said, it is time to be brave. Time to pull out the Kleenex box and began unwrapping items of Christmas that shape my story. I know all will be well, but this is a time I use those words in faith, looking ahead when the calendar brings me around to another Christmas and I am blessed with a stronger sense of belonging.

To Be Whole…

I know this child. I was she. With few role models to begin the journey, I faced my own mirror and saw a ‘dancer’.

There was no textbook for how family could raise a disabled child with confidence and opportunity. In the late 50s and early 60s few families had the support of established organizations nor were encouraged to meet with one another to share their struggles and successes.

Blessed as a child I knew few limits. My memory takes me to friendships and fun. My memory takes me to travel, family, school and all things that nurture the imagination of a child. The limits that were obvious became challenges (puzzles) to solve. The world was before me and all I wanted to do was move through it with the spirit’s music and rhythm. There were plenty of times when I needed that music to cushion and calm. Every child has to face the hard edges of growing up. These edges were particularly unique for me (as they are for any child growing up with a disability) – I entered the world of medicine, doctors and surgery at a very young age. Recovery from multiple surgeries was hard but to go without I could not have moved forward. So, there was never a question – recovery it was. With encouragement and love from parents and friends, I made my way through those young years and into an adult life filled with opportunity.

“Dancing” takes on many forms and the steps change throughout a lifetime. Ordained an Episcopal priest, I have the honor to lead the steps in faith’s dance, through the grace offered by God’s spirit. Now retired, I am testing the next steps in this dance. Again, the textbooks are few for what the road ahead should look like, which is a good thing because my style would most likely challenge any expectation. As many readers know, I have recently moved. Along with settling in a new home, I am meeting new doctors and other practitioners on a regular basis. To my surprise, there have been several moments when I have been thrown back to hard edges of my childhood. While recently meeting with a new physician, I made mention of how grateful I was to be so ‘healthy’. Her response – ‘yes, you have few immediate health problems which is good. You are in pretty good shape to be so ‘broken’. ‘Broken‘ – a word I have never thought of when describing myself. I may be able to understand her intent but the word used was hurtful.

That same confidence that carried me through childhood, the confidence that knew few limits, is still ever-present – ready to redefine and move ahead with the dance that is before me. I take these new steps grateful that I know the difference between being healthy and being whole. Like the image of this tiny dancer — it is not about seeing the broken – if that is all we see than we miss the beauty before us. She has all she needs.

I know that child, I am she.

A Great Idea for Creative Bonding

So the summer officially begins this weekend. For all the miles driven during the school year there is equal time trying to keep peace and ‘enjoy’ the (somewhat) forced time together. Now the summer will bring more hours and more demand for creative activities as the roads lay before you.

Many of us have memories of singing as we rode with our families on our story-filled summer vacations. I share with you a great example of the fun that can be shared as these memories are created… Happy Summer!!