My Article Published


At last!  Here is the English translation of an article I wrote in Koloshvar, Transylvania.

Diary of an American seminarian journeying through Transylvania

Week 1 –  End of April

So the journey begins.  It is a two-fold journey, one to explore the history of Unitarianism – of which I am painfully aware I am lacking knowledge, and the other, the past of my own Hungarian family – of which I barely know anything about.

Landing in Budapest after a night on the plane.  I have never been here, but watching the light over the wing of the aircraft glinting beautifully from the sun is just wonderful.  We’re here, we have arrived.  My first stop has been two generations in coming.  My grandparents on my father’s side were from Budapest, or I find out the next day, really from a small town outside of Budapest called Detk.  My committee member Jay who has traveled with me on part of this journey has a friend who drives us out to the cemetery of that small village and we speak with a woman who cares for it.  None of my family lives there any longer or they have died she says, but if we come back Jay’s friend can research it for me and maybe find out where my family has gone.  More news than I’ve ever had and I know my cousins in America will be so pleased to find out.  We proceed to do some tourist type adventures in Budapest and onward to Koloszvar!  We arrive by train late at night so I’ve missed seeing what the city looks like until the following day.    My wonderful coordinator Robert takes me around and I visit the notable spots on the main street.  I’m amazed to see the churches and learn their histories.  I finally get over my jet lag after a couple of days and am able to attend a party honoring mothers a week before Mother’s Day!  I loved seeing how the families interact and noticed that children here are shown much more affection than they are in the U.S.   Parents and family members kissed and hugged their children frequently and I really liked seeing this true affection shown to each other.  I don’t know why, but in America, if it’s not your children, you don’t hug them and I find that sad that children are missing out of receiving love and affection like they do here.

One of the first things I learn is how to step over thresholds!  Our thresholds between rooms in America are flat and no one gives a thought when they are crossing from one room into another about lifting your feet!  After tripping twice, I finally get the hang of it.  Step up and then walk over the plank of board between the rooms or I will fall flat on my face.  A small difference between our cultures but one that is very important to learn.  🙂

I’ve also learned to eat meat and potatoes every day.  I don’t normally eat either of these foods on a daily basis, even French Fries.  We have become a calorie conscious society in America with so many overweight citizens, so there are calories listed on all the menus when you eat at restaurants or listed on the foods you buy in the grocery stores.  Here everything is so healthy it doesn’t seem needed and I have yet to see calories listed anywhere giving me permission to eat whatever I want to eat!  (At least that’s how I interpret it!)  And there is so much eating going on!  I’m not used to eating such big breakfasts and certainly not the size of the lunches!  We never have 3 course meals in the middle of the day and this was a complete surprise.  I find myself acquiring a taste for food here that I don’t have in the U.S.  I also discovered palinka.  I’ve never had this before and I must be a weak American as I can only take tiny sips at a time!

Week 2 – 1st Week of May

In Kolazsvar I am here to attend the funeral of a father of a colleague, a sad occasion, but I am grateful I am here to support him and his family.  Death here is dealt with differently than our methods in the U.S.  We seem to have a very sterile and antiseptic approach to dealing with the death of our loved ones.  I was surprised to learn that with permission it is acceptable to bring the body home after death.  In America we would never be allowed to do this.  When my parents passed away, they were whisked away quickly and we didn’t see them again until they were presented in their caskets, after going through the whole embalming process.  I believe it takes some of the humanity away from it.  We all eventually die, but in America it’s a cleaned up version.  Again, family seems to be very important in making decisions here.

Week 3 – 2nd Week of May

I am staying this week in four different places!  I must say my host families have been amazing.  Children give up their bedrooms so that I, the guest, can stay in privacy.  Meals are provided to me, I’m taken on excursions to see different Unitarian churches, I am learning of the history of my religion – which is so different in the United States.  We need a greater sense of what was given up for us so that this faith could survive.  I have seen the lands of Balazs Ferenc, I’ve climbed the Citadel in a very special pilgrimage to see the memorial to David Ferenc, I have stood in prayer on the site where he died.  I am marveling at all the history that exists in this tiny part of the world and I am very grateful to have seen it.  I have attended services in Lupen, in Homorodufalu, in Mesko.  I have seen the members of Unitarian congregations worship in Sunday services, watched them honor their mothers and the women of this country on Mother’s Day, stood in the communion line on Pentecost.  I have felt the reverence of the spirit of God and I have learned so much about not only the history of Unitarianism but the history of this land.  I have learned of the years of communism and have tried to imagine what that must have been like.  Without experiencing it I know I cannot imagine it, but I have a greater sense of the sacrifice and courage so many have endured.  And I have seen the great architecture of our Hungarian ancestors juxtaposed against the backdrop of the communist buildings.  I much prefer the great architecture of the Hungarian builders.  🙂  (but I may be a bit prejudiced)

Week 4 – 3rd Week of May

I have seen the Turda Gorge and the plaque commemorating the Diet of Turda in 1568. I have met the Bishop!  We had a wonderful conversation and I now hold a copy of the Diet of Turda of my very own.  He was very gracious to give some of his time to my visit.  Throughout this journey I have experienced a wonder at seeing what I had only read about before.  It makes it more real; it makes it more alive.  I have taken so many pictures I believe the number is close to 1000.  I have seen buildings and churches that were built before my country was born.  These are the amazing things I will take home with me (also probably a few pounds from eating that I hadn’t planned on!)  I have embroideries and painted boxes from local artisans that I can give to my Hungarian relatives who will probably never see this country.  I have made new friends who have been so helpful to me, Abigail who attends this school and helped to translate, Robert Balint who helped make this journey possible by arranging with my scholarship committee all of my stops and sights, his family and the families of Zoli and Maria and Lajos and Arpad and Belu and Kinga who allowed me into their homes and helped me to see what living here is like.

I will take back with me the quiet nights, listening to the crickets, milking a cow, petting a donkey that was plowing!  I will take back with me the visions of the church steeples, the memorials, the Kopjafas and  the Skekely gates.  I will especially take back with me the warmth and generosity of the people here who gave so freely of themselves to me – a perfect stranger.

I am more informed now about the collective history of Unitarianism that will only serve to enhance my ministry in the future.  I feel so much more prepared to teach congregations in the U.S. about the origins of Unitarianism, how the ancestors of our religion fought and died for us, how we can become inspired with the work they have done and are doing.  I especially am grateful for the opportunity to see Unitarian ministers here in action, to witness their preaching, their interaction with their congregations, and their undying dedication to their own ministries.  Ministers here give completely of themselves and it is inspiring to watch and learn.  All of this I take back with me from this amazing pilgrimage through this land.

I still have the end of my journey to experience once again in Budapest.  I sincerely hope I can learn of the history of my own family and “feel” more Hungarian.  And if all goes well, I will return in three years having the ability to speak Hungarian with all of you!  Thank you to all of you who touched my life and helped me learn so much about my faith and my family.

Kösönem Sapen!

Jo Green

On Call Bell Ringer

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May 5th

They let me into their lives.  I awoke with the church bells ringing as they did.  They rang in the morning, at noon, and at night.  And depending on the village, morning and night times varied.  What I found amazing was the job of the bell ringer.  This is still done by one person, who rises in the morning to ring the bells, oh somewhere between 7 and 8 am, always very close to noon for the mid-day ringing and around 730 or 8 pm for the last bells of the day.  This one person does this job 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  I don’t know what they do if they’re sick – one villager told me they don’t get sick – and the bells always ring.  I can’t imagine a job like that.  Having to be on call basically all the time.  And these bell ringers have been doing it for 20 years.  One little old woman in the Homorod Valley had been the bell ringer for 40 years.  These are their lives and they are content.

How different their lives are here.  I envy them.  They really do watch the cows come home.   You can’t miss them actually, they completely block the road.  8 wheelers remain stopped in the road until the cows complete their journey.  I got to milk a cow tonight.  Well it was an attempt.  A tiny stream came out and compared to the teenager whose job it was I guess to do this nightly, it was a pittance.  He filled a large bucket in 2 minutes!  You need strength not only of pull but of pressure, and I was sadly lacking in this respect.  I will never be a cow milker.  🙂

I also got to see the Szekely gates.  There is a place where various villages have placed a memorial gate – huge 10 feet tall gates with a door to one side – in memorial to King Orban Balazs I think.  My tour is all a blur now and my notes a little poor, but walking up the hill we pass gate after gate until we reach the top where his grave is.  It is decorated with wreaths and ribbons from different towns and families to pay homage to him.  History is important here.  History is sacred here.

I go to sleep at night listening to the sounds of the animals and insects of the night.  Crickets chirping, dogs barking, owls hooting, donkeys braying, dogs barking.  There’s as much activity at night here as there is in the day.  It’s actually quite comforting.

From my Transylvanian part of Mayberry,


Watching the Cows Come Home

May 1st


And at the end of the day I literally watched the cows come home.  🙂

I found it amazing.  What life in this little village is like and what it can teach me and others.  It has been an idyllic day, filled with simple pleasures, a beautiful planet and the laughter of little children.   In Hungarian.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can see the similarities in children from any land.  They tease their brothers and sisters, they squabble, they tussle, they drop things, they fall, they cry.  They all do the things children do in whatever language they know and you can always tell what they are doing. 

Our morning began with sleeping in, oh how I needed that after the 4 hour drive finally ending in the driveway here at 1130 pm.  (930 am PST)  My nights are now officially my days.  Today we had scrambled eggs with sliced tomatoes and homemade crusty bread so soft and moist inside that I thought it would melt in my mouth.  And they bought it homemade last night and it was still that fresh this morning.  We had the day to rest a bit so I did what all travelers do when they finally get the chance….. laundry!!!  Oh that felt so good!  I was on my last pair of socks and everything else so a host family with a washing machine was a welcome sight.  I hung all my clothes out on the porch on the drying stand to dry and as I placed all my things on the rungs a fresh breeze came up and I could smell the wonderful air breathing fresh scents into my clothes!  I hadn’t hung my clothes out to dry since I was a child.  No one does that any more with the advent of clothes dryers, but there is something so very simple about this act that is so touching.  The earth is drying my clothes.  Try it sometime.  You might just like it. 

Then something happened that can only happen in Transylvania – the gypsies came to the door playing their accordion, violin, cello and horn!   And they played and played until we gave them some money and a shot of palinka to drink!  Oh If you’ve never tried palinka you just must!  Stronger than any American whiskey and oh so tasty! (but not so early in the day)  🙂

Then we went on a walk to some of the hectares of pasture right outside the village for a good old fashioned picnic!  What a joy!  We climbed up a hill and settled under the shade of a white pear tree whose blossoms showered down on us with each stiff breeze.  Blue skies, white clouds, laughing and fighting children.  Sounds very American doesn’t it?  Only I’m in the middle of a pasture in a southwestern valley of Transylvania and it could almost be a spot somewhere in the California Central Valley.  Our earth can look like our same earth in so many parts of this world.  The adults sat and chatted and thank you God for host families that know English!  I had a chance to quiz my host minister about what her parish was like,  some of the trials and tribulations of church Boards and what she experienced in her 18 years of ministry with the same congregation.  Did she run out of topics for her sermons; did she run out of things to say?  She has had basically the same 200 people as congregants all these years, I wondered to myself, did she get sick of them or they her?  I can’t imagine living in the same place for that long of a time and then on top of that, living with the same group of people?  What must that be like?  And to top it off she’s a wife and a mother.  It amazes me how some of the women in this world do as much as they do.  If men did that, they’d be canonized.  Women do it every day on a daily basis without recognition.

Kinga the daughter had been staring at me without my knowledge for a while and then presented me with a pencil drawing of myself!  What a sweet little girl she is, I promptly took it and responded, Köszönöm sapen!  Thank you so much!  A little later I was presented with a small bunch of lilacs and felt very accepted as this nearly mute visitor in their midst.  The parents know English but the children really don’t.  So I was a bit saddened that I missed out of so many of  the family conversations as I had no clue as to the dynamics except for body language and intonation.  I could only guess at the conversation. 

On our walk returning home, my minister host reflected to me how to watch out for the cow patties on the road as this was the path the cows took coming home.  So I got so excited and asked, is this something I can see?  Of course she said!  So Czaba the little boy came up to me later in the evening and said, “Can you come wit me?” I finally understood and he showed me a pad his father had written, please come with me.  The cows are coming!  So I sped out the front door hoofing my shoes on without tying them and ran out the gate to watch the cows come home.  Czaba had an empty pitcher that he gave to the woman across the street and we sat down, she knowing some English, at least to understand but not to speak and we sat there and smiled at each other mostly until I started to hear some small tinkling bells ringing!  We ran out on the road and up the path from the road below I could see cows walking up, some turning to the left at the juncture and others to the right, until a few actually came straight towards me and entered the gate of the woman I had sat with!  They knew exactly where they were going, no one had directed them.  They must have done this a 1000 times and knew where their owners lived and went to them every evening.  And people say cows are dumb. 

The woman handed the boy a bag of eggs and the full pitcher now of milk and we crossed the road once all the cows had passed.  The trucks coming down the road had to stop for them, some reluctantly and I nearly feared for the cows!  How selfish are they!  How often do you get to see the cows come home!  I found it a wondrous sight, it felt so simple and serene and just a part of nature. 

Today I felt a part of life.  Today I watched how my ancestors must have lived.  It felt so calming and natural.  I’ll never joke about the cows coming home again.

From my Transylvanian part of Mayberry,


My Budapest Past

April 24thImage

My first day in Budapest, my only full day until I return on my way back home though thank goodness for that.  We saw a bit of the city, walked to Heroes Square (Hősök Tere in Hungarian) where apparently all tourists go.  It’s right off one of the Metro stops and their underground is sooooo deep!  It feels like you go down forever into the bowels of the earth.  I heard the Communists built it that way, not sure why, but it seems to be working.   This section was built in the late 1800’s they say, although wait a minute, the Communists weren’t there then!  Okay, so this isn’t a history lesson, but it was pretty cool.  And the day was absolutely gorgeous!  I was expecting the mid to high 50’s according to, ha ha… and instead it’s in the 70’s and gloriously sunny!  I could only imagine my ancient relatives walking around. 

Synchronicity has been my friend. Mr. J, my traveling companion for a bit of this trip, knows a guy who knows a guy and maybe I can find my ancestors!  It’s true, he has a friend here who is a minister who knows the local priest from the parish we believe my grandparents were married in.  He took us out after our day of sightseeing to the little town of Detk and I think this is where my grandparents came from.   We approached the cemetery near the church at the end of the day, nearly dusk and amazingly the cemetery was still open.  The woman who I believe runs the office or the cemetery or something was still there along with the caretaker of the cemetery.  I told her of my story through the translation of my minister interpreter and we began scouring through the graves.  Lo and behold we found about six of them with the same last name!  This could be it.  None of them were my great-grandfather however, but they might be great uncles or aunts or cousins.  The woman was chatting with my minister interpreter when he tells me that she might be related to my grandmother!  Holy cow!  I ran up and hugged her!  We don’t know this for sure and we didn’t research her or her maiden name, but my dear minister friend (he has so become my friend now!  What a nice and generous man) has offered to research my relatives for me so that when I return before I leave for home, I may actually get to meet someone I’m related to.  Is that not amazing or what!  All my wasted hours on where I ran into brick walls looking for more information past my grandparents may all be resolved.  I was standing in a cemetery that may hold the spirits of my Hungarian ancestors, staring at a church that may be the site of my grandparents’ marriage before their immigration to America.  What are the odds?  I felt like Lisa Kudrow on her television show that searches for your ancestors.  I was really here in this ancient land and I may finally find out from whence I came.  I find that amazing and profound and somewhat spiritual.  How many of us know where we come from?  How many of us care?   I have always cared and never known.  My father’s parents both died before he married so our family never knew our grandparents.  That side of my ancestors seemed to be lost forever.  And it only seemed that those wealthy few who were able to fly to whatever their country of origin was were the lucky ones to know their histories.  I am far from wealthy financially.  But I am wealthy in spirit which I believed allowed me to acquire this scholarship sending me of all places to the land of my ancestors.  And I am on the brink of building many leaves on my family’s tree.

Won’t my father be proud?  I hope so.  For I may be discovering information that he never knew.  As a child of 7 who lost his father, he never had the privilege of hearing family stories, consequently he could not pass those stories down to us.  I hope he’s up there looking down and helping this story to move along. 

Far from my little piece of Mayberry but nearly acquiring another one,



April 22nd

The woman at the ticket counter checked my passport and asked, “and your final destination is Budapest? “  Inside my mind I felt stunned.  Yes that was true.  It finally hit me.  I was actually going.  It was actually happening!  It felt like a movie, like somewhere I thought of going, maybe daydreamt about, but not that I would actually go.  And that I was here on scholarship.  Another miracle.  I am so hoping to meet long lost relatives.  Surely some of Dad’s family is still here.  I would love to learn about that side of my family.  My dad never spoke of them, he didn’t seem to remember much when I would quiz him before he died.  And here I was sitting with the possibility of meeting them.  Here I was traveling to Budapest.

I’ve already learned how to say Budapest correctly.  It’s Buda and then Pesht, not pest. 🙂  I’ve been studying with my CD’s but oh is this a hard language to learn!  I’ve looked up the history of both Hungary and Transylvania, studied the architecture and music, read about the early history of Unitarianism and how it came to be and tried to thoroughly immerse myself in Hungarian culture.   The parakeets are at my friend Chris’s house all safe and chirping, the apartment is clean (except I forgot to clean out the refrigerator so food is going to smell bad!), my other neighbor is getting my mail and another is letting a friend stay for a few days to help defray the costs of my rent.  2 of my friends have boxes of things I didn’t want to leave in the apartment in their garages in a safe and dry place.  I feel like all is taken care of.  My passport is here, my itinerary at the ready, I got packed and out of the house in the nick of time.  This adventure has really begun!

It was a quiet night on the plane.  The two year old in the row ahead of me stopped her crying and I watched Hitchcock on the plane in relative peace.  I am blessed with the ability to pretty much sleep anywhere (no jokes please, I am a seminarian you know.)  🙂  and actually got some zzzz’s on the plane.  I arrived in Budapest on the morning of the next day which turned out to be the evening of the day I am now in.  Confusing?  Yeah, my Imagebody thinks so too!  (These scary looking guys are in the Heroes memorial).  I think this is the longest time change I’ve ever experienced.  We’re 10 hours different when I get to Transylvania and I think I’ve only been 8 or 9 hours away in the past.  It makes for adding to the feeling of another world, another place and time.

So I land here with a feeling of excitement and trepidation, not knowing my host families or what is in store for me.  Here we go!  I’ll keep you posted whenever I get Internet access!!!  (And that could be a challenge unto itself!)

Far from my little place of Mayberry,


The Power of Facebook

March 31st

I know it’s not perfect.  I know there’s a lot being said about the hazards of social networking and how distant it is making all of us in human terms.  But something happened these last couple of weeks that could not have occurred without it.

When I posted on my friend’s page a couple of weeks ago to wish her a happy birthday, I didn’t know then that she was dead.  For all intents and purposes we still had tentative plans to celebrate her birthday.  When I did post my good wishes, it wasn’t she who answered me, but a woman I’d never met.  A sister of a friend of my friend Linda who died, was posting to let Linda know that the memorial of her sister was approaching and she saw my birthday wishes on Linda’s page and messaged me to tell me of the sad news of Linda’s passing.  A woman was posting from a page of her sister who died, to a friend – me – on a page of another dead woman.  And in this bizarre string of events two bodiless beings connected two living beings together in a moment of sadness.  As I reflected on this strange circuitous course of events, I couldn’t help but wonder at this.  Where else could this happen?  In a small town grocery store maybe, in years past, a customer could hear another customer talking about the demise of a friend and learn of a death that way.  But that would entail human connection.  This woman’s name, I will say was Barbara, and she was living her own grief in the death of her sister and here she was comforting me on the shock of learning of the death of my friend.  All through an electronic medium that most use to post political cartoons or angry diatribes or pictures of cute baby animals.  This was something real.

This showed the power of what Facebook can be.  It was a small innocuous stab at reaching out from one human to another to assuage some grief.  She doesn’t know, I don’t think, what an amazing gesture this was for me.  But it gave me information I had not had and may never have discovered.

So I used the power of Facebook to post my yearning to have someone accompany me to give some closure to my grief of my friend of ten years.  And my wish was answered.  I had three friends offer to take me to the site where she died and after coordinating schedules one went with me.

So yesterday my friend Pat drove me down to Fremont to lay flowers on the edge of a freeway where my friend died.   I discovered all the information I needed from the two newspaper articles the woman Barbara had linked to my messages.  I believe she jumped off the overpass onto the freeway and that was her demise.  Speculation had been maybe she walked onto the freeway in the path of an oncoming car, but we just couldn’t see how she got through the fencing and surmised she must have jumped.  It caused my heart to jump to see the spot where she last lived.  We brought flowers with us and a chalice that seemed unable to keep a flame from the winds caused by passing traffic, but the spirit of the flame was there.  And lo and behold, there was a sign on the side of the road.  Maybe her brother left it there or another friend, but I know it was meant for Linda.  At this exact overpass on this freeway shoulder, there could not have been another death at that time.  On a heavy board with a wooden frame was written, “Ciao Bella” and it’s weight kept it from blowing away as I believe it was designed to do.  We tucked our parcels of flowers underneath one edge with the good bye card I wrote to her, I said my heartfelt words of farewell and we climbed back into the car and drove home.  It felt right.  It felt holy.  I indeed received the closure I had expected.  And I remembered some words that were given to me, remember Linda’s spirit as a blessing, remember to keep calmness in my heart, remember to breathe.

And my goodbye was said and completed through the power of Facebook.

The Day She Died

March 18th

Today would have been her birthday if she would have made it this long.  She tried.  I spoke with her 10 days ago and offered to take her to dinner to celebrate.  She was upset that she was turning 60 and her life had nothing to show for it.  Or so she thought.  I assured her it did.  I guess I didn’t assure her enough.  Or so I thought.

When someone takes their life, the people left behind are the ones that feel the pain.  I am grateful she is out of pain.  I am grateful she is with her mother’s spirit now that she was missing so deeply.  And I am so very, very sad that she felt this was her only path in life.  A path leading to death.

I am feeling so powerless, so inadequate.  I think back to what I said and how I could have done more.  Was I there for her really?  Did I get caught up in my life and missed what was going on in hers?  Did I miss the sign where I could have been a lifeline?  Was I just too busy or too impatient or too ….., what? To notice that I could have been a lifeline.

In my head I know I did not have the power to change the outcome.  In my heart I feel as if I could.  In my soul I am experiencing the loss of a life.  What does that do to one’s soul?  I will be forever marked by the loss of her spirit, this sometimes misguided, effervescent light of a soul.  Did she take her meds, would that have made a difference?  Too many questions go through my brain, questions without answers.   There can be no answers.

She was my friend.  She took care of my cats and stayed at my home when I went out of town.  She gave the doctor my name to call when she was admitted and he asked me what to do when she was found wandering on the street in her bedclothes.  There was a bond that was invisible and silent between us that I didn’t know how strong until the very end when she seemed to cry out in silence and I did not hear.

Is this how it is when one takes a life?

I wrote those words a week ago.  I didn’t finish my post, I’m not sure why, but I still have the urgency to post in honor of her.  She was Linda; she was a person.  And in a silent way, if I don’t acknowledge the personhood subconsciously do I feel I too won’t be acknowledged when I die?  That’s a question.

I have many these days.  In church service the other day, it was Palm Sunday and our minister talked about impending death.  We listened to the theories that explained Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The reasons why people were in the streets, people were cheering him, discussed the fact that it even happened.  But one fact remains each day we live and that is that we all will one day die.

I shouldn’t be too shocked about my friend.  She lived a precarious life, wrought with drama, pain and dysfunction that stood side by side with imagination, brilliance and artistic ability.  Questions remain in my mind of how I could have made a difference.  She attempted suicide before.  Countless friends have told me nothing I could have done or would have done would have made a difference.  Intellectually I know this.  Emotionally I don’t.  Those times I became exasperated with her and left her voice lingering on voicemail, could that have changed something?  Those times I could have reached out and called, could that have changed something?  Probably not others claim.  Yet the gnawing doubt sticks in my memory that if my impatience had not gotten the best of me then maybe there would be a different outcome.  The idea of guilt does not seem to fit.  I don’t’ feel guilt.  It’s more a life lesson that I can take away.  I know that I am only human, but as a human I want to be here for other humans.  And especially as a minister human, I need to keep this in mind.   This must mean that even on the days I feel lazy, or impatient or annoyed, there is still a human in the mix, and I need to take that into account.  There is a life lesson to be learned here and the act of awareness feels the most paramount.  I want to commit to being more aware, more gentle, more compassionate for those in pain.  I won’t ignore my own self care, that’s not the issue.  I’ve grown to know that I need that part of me and I’ll take care of that.  There still remains a part that can be there for others even when I don’t want to be.   That’s what I think we need more humans to do for one another.

I tried to visit the spot where she died today, but I found I couldn’t go alone.  So I did a brave thing and I reached out to those I know to see if someone could come with me.  I have a friend who will.  We just have to figure out the details and coordinate our schedules.  But I’ll be able to leave flowers, a card, some kind of marker, to show there once was a life that was there.  And her name was Linda.

First Day of Chaplaincy

 June 4th

Chaplaincy has begun, on day one, and it’s already intense.  I am going to love chaplaincy and I’m going to be very afraid of it.  The responsibility looms – how do I minister to people in grief, in pain, in suffering, and not add to that grief or pain or suffering, inadvertently?  That is my biggest fear.  I’ve heard horror stories of chaplains saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, not noticing that they increased the pain instead of helping.  As we found out today, we are here to learn.  It was amazing to see the 4 others in my group, all of us of different faiths, one Catholic, one Lutheran, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, and me the all encompassing Unitarian Universalist.  I will definitely learn from all of them. 

We began the morning, after a wonderful breakfast of bagels, fruit, doughnuts ( I skipped those) and coffee with a spiritual practice to begin our time together.  How wonderful ritual is!  I am appreciating more and more the sacredness of ritual.   We blessed each other on our new journey and appreciated all the special gifts we each contribute.  Oh if only the rest of the world could be this kind to each other.  To appreciate and acknowledge that everyone has special talents and weaknesses, that will enrich the world with our unique combination of life experiences.  If only we could see each other in this way on a daily basis.  I hope I thrive here.  I hope I gain insight and love.

We toured one of the hospitals, we’re going to be picking our choice of units later this week, and we are eventually touring all of them.  I learned terms I hadn’t heard before.  Fetal demise.  We may be encountering fetal demise.  This campus deals with many births on a daily basis and some of them – even though it’s a small amount – will not end in joy.  And yet we are told, we will know what to say, the Divine will guide us.  I hope so.  I sincerely hope so.  We were shown the viewing room of the morgue, where the possibility exists that I will have to accompany a family to see a family member for the last time.  Hospitals seem to hold more grief than joy. 

And yet, there are staff members there who devote their entire lives to serving the sick and the grief-stricken.  We are there for them too.  I never took advantage of these services when my parents died, when my aunt died, when I saw friends in the hospital before they passed away.  I’m not sure if I just never knew  or – back in the day – I didn’t feel very spiritual.  There are chapels in hospitals and I think in the back of my mind I knew this, but I never visited there when I was in my own grief.

We are here to learn about ourselves, to gain insight into what our past experiences will contribute to assisting those in need, whether it is negatively or positively, I will learn about me.  I heed the warnings of issues that may come up for me regarding patients or colleagues and how I will deal with these emotions.  Quoting Bette Davis, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

But I’m up for it. May it be so.

From my little piece of Mayberry,


Preaching and My Cat

From April 12th

I haven’t written in a very long time, but I thought I would now.  I had an assignment in my preaching class this semester that I’ve decided to share.  It’s a small homage to Callie, my kitty who recently died.  I had to ask myself the other day, how do I talk about something that’s funny when I feel so sad?  I know that there will be days when I will not feel like being funny in a sermon, yet know that that is exactly what the congregation will need.  There will be days where I don’t want to even write a sermon.  Maybe I can come up with something that the congregation can do and then I won’t have to do it.  Hey that’s an idea!  Will there be days where I don’t want to be a preacher?  Will there be days where ministering will be the farthest thing from my mind?  I’m sure there will be and then maybe I can pull a Ferris Buehler day off.

 But for those days when I can’t, what is my solution? 

I went to visit Southern Ca last June to see my cousin’s son graduate from UC Irvine.  Firstly that made me feel …..really old.  They live in Texas and I had not seen him for years before he began attending the University and he towered a foot above my head.  We had a wonderful time, 5 cousins out of 30 actually gathered and it felt like a mini-reunion.  After a few days at this rented condo in Newport that we occupied visiting with each other, (my cousin really knows how to party), I made the trek up to LA to visit friends before returning home.  When I was there – in the company of one of my old congregational members where I had stayed before moving up to Berkeley, I received the news that my 14 year old orange Maine Coon cat had died.  I had thought he would have made it till my return but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.   It was ironic that I was in the place that we all last stayed before the great move.  And he died on what used to be my mom’s birthday.  I saw it as a sign, as his way of saying goodbye.

So life goes on.  I then made a trek back to Los Angeles during Fall break week, purely for recreational reasons this time.  Upon my return I discovered that my dear neighbor Anita, who had allowed me to bury little Sequel in her backyard, where he loved to jump and play, had passed away on Halloween.  She had so warmly welcomed me to the neighborhood when I first moved up here and had been so kind to me.  My immediate reaction and those of my friends in the area was,…….

I can’t seem to go to LA without someone close to me dying.  I thought to myself, I can’t go down there again,

who knows who’s next? 

The coincidence was rather unnerving.  Yet I knew in my rational brain that it had to be coincidence right? 

My last visit to LA was in February to take care of finalizing the eviction of the tenant who stopped paying rent and took my tuition money for next year in the process.  I came back and….

Nobody had died. 

No one was sick, no one was in the hospital, no one had had an accident.  Everyone was safe. 

That’s when I discovered through my High School Facebook page that my very first serious boyfriend in High School had passed away.  Now he lived in Missouri, and as I did more research and google work, I discovered he passed away 8 years ago. 

But I had never known that.

Oh my God I thought, now my radius is growing. 

I’m not just killing off people and pets in the Bay area, I’ve extended my reach to the Midwest.  It began to look grim for ever having a visit to LA again.  I’d have to just phone people or email them,  just to keep them safe. 

So that brings us up to the present day.  My 4th death of someone close to me has just occurred.  My dearly loved kitty of 16 years had to be put to sleep on Tuesday.  I didn’t want to write, I didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to study.  I just wanted to cry. 

I thought, but I didn’t go down to LA!  I didn’t even consider visiting! 

How could this happen?  She was 16 years old, and from talking to other folks I discovered that’s actually pretty old for a cat.  I had thought she’d live to 18, don’t ask me why, I guess I just decided that, as my brother had a cat live to 18 and I thought she was just as good as he was. 

I just never thought she would die. 

She had always been there.  I got her from the Burbank shelter when my beloved Willie disappeared and I waited a year for his return, checking the surrounding shelters, knowing he was still alive somewhere out there and he’d just lost his way or been kidnapped.  She was there to console me when the realization set in.  She was there to companion Sequel, the second orange cat I got. (What other name would I choose in Hollywood?) 

She was there when Sequel died last June and she was the rock, the constant, the taken for granted kitty that would never leave.  She was there. 

She was always there.

I learned a great lesson from her.  How to be present. 


How to just be THERE.   She didn’t ask for much.  She wasn’t a snuggly animal, she rarely sat on my lap, would much rather actually sit on the other side of the room and watch me.  But she never knocked over vases of flowers and broke them like Sequel did.  She didn’t want to go outside and constantly make a break for it like Sequel did. 

She was content to be.  She ate

and she slept

and she played

and she was. 

Where do you look to learn lessons?  What little tiny things that happen day to day can teach you so much?  It doesn’t have to be a dire situation to learn a great truth from it.  Look around.  Open your eyes.  Help those you may not have seen before.  Watch and see and BE. 

I didn’t want to be funny today.  I didn’t want to have any sense of humor.  But what I’ve discovered is that there is a certain transcendence in humor.  There is a release, a gratification, a rising up of my spirit, when I can find the humor in the situations of my life.  What do you do to find the humor in the situations of your life? 

What do you do? 

There may be times when the only way to approach a dire situation will be through humor.  After some distance and after some reflection I now know I’ll know those times.  I look around my home and I think I see her.  I know her spirit is still there and I am content to feel that spirit.  She would not want me to spend weeks grieving.  I think she liked it when I was happy.  I think most people like it when I’m happy.  Now I can also know how ……… just be. 

May it be so.


Rest in Peace Randy

February 23rd

So Facebook is a good thing I guess.  It’s brought people from my past into my life and that’s been a nice thing.  And lately I’ve gotten a lot of contact with past schoolmates since it’s another reunion year – I can’t tell you which one – it’s too scary.  Suffice it to say, it’s been awhile.

So when I was perusing a website a former classmate compiled on all the bands in our hometown, I decided to look up my old boyfriend’s band.  That’s when the sadness came.  There was a “Rest in Peace” in front of his name.  Now we haven’t kept in touch; in fact I think it’s been 20 years since we saw each other and spoke, but we had fun at dinner that night catching up and we parted ways in meaningful friendship.  I just thought he would always be there, you know?  I just thought all my high school classmates would be there.  Even though I’ve moved half a country away and I haven’t really stayed in touch, it just felt like a given that they were a part of my life.  It was High School.  And now my very first serious boyfriend was not here any longer.  And the shock that deepened was when I did a bit of research to find he died 8 years ago.  There wasn’t an obituary, not much information.  I hope someone shed tears at his passing and he was missed those 8 years ago.

I never got to say good bye.  I feel neglectful, those old phrases running through my head, I should have stayed in touch, why didn’t I?  Could I have been kinder or more insightful?  What did he die of and why?  I’m a seminarian studying to assist congregants going through what I’m going through.  Ironically this semester I have a Pastoral Care class where compassion and guidance are being taught to aid in all phases of grief and despair and life-changing events.  At the moment though I’m not feeling kind to myself.  I’m feeling sad and wishing I could have done something, although I don’t know what I expect that something to be.  We went on with our lives, we went down our own separate paths, I’m not sure what I’m expecting of myself.  So instead, I feel sad.   And I find myself wondering about the hereafter – what it’s like, is there one?  Just because I’m becoming a minister doesn’t mean I know about the hereafter.  I have as many questions as everyone else.  I have never felt a connection with anyone that has passed on, yet I feel as if there really is someplace out there that our spirit travels to on another plane.   But I’ve never seen a ghost or a spirit and I’d love one of them to tell me what it’s like.   

I hope you’re happy there Randy.  I hope it’s filled with guitars and Chihuahuas.  I hope you are experiencing the peace that everyone dreams is there. 

From my little piece of Mayberry,