Gargoyles to Grace

Many people are trying to process the untimely death – the suicide – of Robin Williams. He is a legendary comedian and actor who I first knew as “Mork from Ork.” California law required a detailed release of how he died. Depression. Hanging. An as of then publicly undisclosed diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Husband. Father. Friend. Loved. I’m not sure it gets any easier with time or that questions are ever answered. I find I’m still in some stage of grieving the suicide of a childhood friend who took his own life just over three years ago.

Steve, Steven, or Stevie. Few were allowed to call him Stevie. I did. Our moms were best friends before we were born. I’m a few months older. His father was absent and therefore was raised only by his mom. Today I would say he was co-parented by my mom and dad. There were always behavioral issues. As children, mom kept a watch over me for his flying toys – hurled without warning. I recall hurling my own plastic bowling pins at him for something. We laughed about it years later.  He was diagnosed as ADHD and was on Ritalin for most of his school years. He could be off the wall and very funny. Hyper-creative at times. His own Mork from Ork impersonations guaranteed a “nanu nanu” and a “shazbot” now and again.

On and off, he and his mom attended the same church with my family. He participated in Youth Group at church. Sometimes there were emotional outbursts with other kids and adult leaders. In the church parking lot, my parents thought once he tried to run me down with his car. On occasion he would drive circles around the block around my house. In later years, he always offered his opinion on anyone me or my sister dated – or married. He worked for some time in the Renaissance Festival circuit. But, he was mostly unemployed and on disability. Issues with authority figures. You never new what to expect. Confrontational at home throughout his life. Occasional threats to end his life.

He threw himself into working for the local historical society. One of my last memories is of helping him with an exhibit. The historical society came into possession of a few Gone With the Wind items of historical significance. Stevie called to ask if I would mind loaning some of my collection to fill out the exhibit for a weekend. Realizing I’d become detached from owning this collection, I quickly agreed to help him. I packed up some items and left them with him for a couple weeks. I attended the exhibit. It was very nice.

Mom called me at work one afternoon – “We have a problem. Stevie’s gone. He’s dead.” – she whispered the last two words. He had gone to the historical society alone with a researched plan. Plastic wrap and nitrous oxide. He didn’t come home when expected and another historical society member found him – seated on a sofa – gone. He had recently turned 45 years old. I remember scouring Facebook for his last posts and trying to remember our last interactions. I was thankful for the GWTW exhibit collaboration. His mother wanted my sister and I to speak at the grave side service. I remember looking out at people – relatives – many of whom had their own troublesome history with him. I wasn’t always kind to him. I was even hateful at times. I said I would miss him and I cried. I looked at his mom and I meant it – the words and the tears.

The last Christmas present I remember getting from him is “The Dedo” – a small replica of a sweet faced gargoyle from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Legend has it that it was carved by the nun “Marie Therese” from Provence. She didn’t like the evil faced gargoyles and carved this one instead. She slipped into the Cathedral and placed on the highest point “closest to God.” The Little Way of love. Shortly after Stevie’s death, my parents, sister and I went to visit with his mom. It was my job to look around the house and the computer to see if there was anything left behind – perhaps a note. I slowly walked through the house. All the places he spent most of his time. The attic where he retreated to smoke. The computer desk. His room in disarray. Relics of the troubled spirit. As I looked around the house and the shelves, there among his collections was another Dedo – exactly like the one he’d given me. I picked it up and held it for a few moments. I left it there.

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Sometimes I go through my shelves looking for chotskies I can give away. I pick up my little Dedo gargoyle and think of Stevie. I wonder why he didn’t call me or reach out in any way. I just wonder “why?”

Shazbot.

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Trust God More

At Mass, one of my favorite parts are the priest’s words at the end of the Our Father.  I pray them interiorly as he speaks –

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day.  In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. – Liturgy of the Eucharist

The above is from another post I made over two years ago entitled ‘Protect Us From All Anxiety‘.   It has gotten enough traffic to make it in my top 15 of visited articles.  A lot of searching on the word ‘anxiety.’ In that post, I shared “I worry that my anxiety reveals that I do not trust God enough with my life.”

In preparation of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I anticipated that God would have a message for me.  By the last day or two of the pilgrimage, I heard loud and clear that God was saying “Trust Me More.”  This message was loudest in the place where Jesus surely was in the greatest of his own anxiety – the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is the place where Jesus placed His trust in his own Father.  We heard the Gospel accounts of Jesus and his agony in the garden.  “Stay Awake!” — we are reminded.  “Can’t you stay awake with me for even one hour?”

God has a purpose for us all and it is not always the easy way.  God showed me in hindsight how the Holy Spirit had been working throughout each day of this journey.  By the last day of pilgrimage and the first few days back home, I could only be amazed at where the hand of God had been directing my experiences.  It has given me the strength to endure greater difficulties that transpired after I’d been home a couple of weeks – the hospitalizations of my father – both while I was in Israel and again after I was home.   To have a parent look at you in the ER with fear in their eyes.  My own fear.  Mostly it has encouraged me to tell my family to trust God more.  “Wake up!”  God is good.  God loves you.

I think the words “waiting in joyful hopeare the words I claim for this Advent.   I wait in the joyful hope of the prayers I offer for my loved ones.

Garden of Gethsemane - Olive Trees

Protect Us From All Anxiety

Anxiety – 1. a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen; concern about a possible future event 2 Psychiatry an abnormal state like this, characterized by a feeling of being powerless and unable to cope with threatening events, typically imaginary, and by physical tension, as shown by sweating, trembling, etc 3 an eager but often uneasy desire – Webster’s

Webster’s Dictionary indicates anxiety can be a result of an over active imagination. I have no idea why I am such an anxious person.  While I consider myself a positive person, I do tend to think of everything that could go wrong.  I am definitely an introvert and can feel some mild social anxiety in a large group of people I do not know.  I worry when I know I will have to speak to a group of people. I worry about family members who are struggling with health, or financial problems.  I worry about the day when both my parents are gone. 

Hand in hand with this anxiety is a strong streak of perfectionism.  Perhaps perfectionism and an introvert personality are the roots of my anxiety.  I strive to please and don’t like to disappoint.  Sometimes I tire of being dependable.   I worry that my anxiety reveals that I do not trust God enough with my life.  I do feel that I am getting better at trusting God.  The daily praying of the Psalms from the Liturgy of the Hours serves as a way to bookend my day in prayer.  While it is simply impossible to pick one Psalm that speaks the most to my anxious nature, I can share one that is an essence of comfort to me.

Psalm 121

1 I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

3 God will not allow your foot to slip, your guardian does not sleep.

4 Truly, the guardian of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps.

5 The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

6 By day the  sun cannot harm you, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will guard you from all evil, will always guard your life.

8 The Lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever. – NAB

At Mass, one of my favorite parts are the priest’s words at the end of the Our Father.  I pray them interiorly as he speaks —

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day.  In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. – Liturgy of the Eucharist

 In the Admonitions of St. Francis, # 28 reads as thus

XXVII:  Virtue Puts Vice to Flight

1 Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.

2 Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor disturbance.

3 Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice.

4 Where there is rest and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor restlessness.

5 Where there is fear of the Lord to guard an entrance, there the enemy cannot have a place to enter.

6 Where there is a heart full of mercy and discernment, there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.

(Francis of Assisi: The Saint – Early Documents p. 136-7)

I don’t think it is any coincidence that the lessening of my anxieties over the last few months is a result of a renewed commitment to praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I had let this practice slide more than a couple of years — blaming my full-time college + full-time employee schedule.  I knew I was out of step when I see the priest wearing red vestments and don’t know whose feast we are celebrating.  During Lent of this year, I renewed my commitment and now it comes first on rising, first when I get home from work, and before I turn out my lights at night.  My spiritual calendar is once again in harmony with The Church. 

For further consideration, check the links below.  You can listen on your computer – an iPod is not necessary.  I highly recommend Fr. Jay — the iPadre.

Fr. Jay Finelli – The iPadre podcast episode #115 – Office Hours

Catholic Answers Live – Is Anxiety Ruining Your Peace?