Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Back when I was a librarian, eons ago in the 1970s (well, that was my FIRST tour as a librarian; I was a librarian again for a brief time in the 90's, on Shaw Island) there was a children's book by Remy Charlip called "Fortunately, Unfortunately". It went something like this:

"Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.
Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.
Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.
Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute."

There has always seemed to me to be a fortunately/unfortunately quality to life, but yesterday it accelerated a bit more than I was comfortable with. There were lots of fortunate and unfortunate moments to the day, most of which I won't go into here, but the key ones were these:

Fortunately, my exhibit went up beautifully at St. Mark's Cathedral. Unfortunately its appearance there was delayed for a week by another exhibit with a prior claim, and I learned yesterday that it may need to come down before Holy Week; I'm sad its time there has been shortened.

Fortunately the Cathedral Shop has agreed to sell the book versions of the exhibit for its duration. Unfortunately -- since they are self-published through -- they are pretty expensive. I wish I could make them available more cheaply.

Fortunately my friend Barbara lives nearby, so I was able to join her for coffee after hanging the exhibit. Unfortunately I was struggling with some personal issues that had risen earlier in the day so much of our time was consumed by that. Fortunately she restored "the light at the end of my tunnel," for which I'm really grateful.

Unfortunately I received a phone call later in the evening to say that the friend I visited in the hospital on Monday has learned that the challenge which brought her there was not pneumonia after all: it was more cancer, spreading to her lungs and kidneys. So I suspect the beautiful luminosity I saw in her face was not health but actually a closing in on the end. I wish I'd had, these last few years when we've been living so far apart, more time to spend with her.

Fortunately times like this have a way of reminding us -- again -- of what's truly important in our lives. It's a curious dichotomy, in a way that gets crystallized for me in this morning's Thomas passage:

"Miserable is the body that depends on a body, and the soul that depends on both."

Unfortunately, life is short, and all things pass away -- which is a reminder to cherish those whom we love while we have them in our lives. But it's also true that in order to survive the inevitable grief and loss we will encounter, we need -- or at least, I need -- to be in relationship with that which is timeless and formless, the hope and source that lie beyond.

Which, I suspect, is why this image called to me this morning. Because my heart right now is sitting with my friend at the fence between now and beyond. And I find it enormously reassuring to see that little patch of light shining through; it reminds me of the light I saw in her amazing eyes. And that reflection on the wall is the soft wonder of her presence; I suspect it will remain imprinted here -- and in the hearts of my daughters and all the other children whom she taught at the Shaw School -- long after she is gone.


karen gerstenberger said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's illness. Yet I am thankful that you were able to have a happy visit her. May God ease her way and give her, her friends and family comfort and peace.
And congratulations on the exhibit and the book - those are "fortunate" things, indeed!

Maureen said...

May peace be with you, Diane. Holding your friend in prayer.

"It was easy to love God in all that / was beautiful. // The lessons of deeper knowledge, though, instructed me/ to embrace God in all / things." ~ St. Francis, in Love Poems from God


Your post here is so real and such a reminder of how fragile our existence is. Thanks for sharing the sadness you feel over your friend's illness. If we could just stop loving I suppose these losses wouldn't matter but as it is, they hurt a lot. I am keeping you and your friend and her family in my prayers.