Assumption of Blessed Mother

Your boss approaches you and says, “You’re doing a great job. There’s a 10% increase for you starting next month.” You smile back to him and reply, “Thank you very much but, no. I make enough money. I’m not sure what to do with all the money I make now. So, I’ll say no.”

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If you ever say or meet someone who tells his boss that, please let me know.

This Marian feast about that simple, three-letter word that allowed a divine entry into our humanly broken world. “Yes.” It’s followed by her beautiful prayer (“The Magnificat”) that ought to all memorize as well as we know the “Our Father.”

Back to the boss. She tells you to stay late tomorrow. You immediately think, “no.” But you comply. The work is finished the next night, and you drive home feeling satisfied, complete. Mary might have felt way, being a teenager as we think she was. No husband, probably working some menial job. And, ready for this? There’s a full bloom angel standing in front of her asking her, “Not to be afraid.” What would your first thought be?

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” We all know all sin begins and ends with selfishness. Some writers simply call sin “forgetting.” We’ve forgotten the tenets and beauties of our Christian faith. “It’s all about us, as individuals,” we think. Those may not be the words you use, but our actions show them loudly. Mary didn’t say, “My mind proclaims.” Her “Yes” arose from her soul. That divinely trusted organ that God placed within us to inform, guide our minds. Mary’s “Yes” amounted to saying to the angel and to God, “I trust you. I’m not sure why, but I truly trust you.”

Now, what about our “Yes’s?” The answer is the Church. We even name the Church after her. I don’t mean “Queen of Apostles,” I mean “Holy Mother Church.” I need all of you to validate my “Yes’s” in my life, and I need to validate yours. This isn’t a priestly thing but as Catholic to Catholic or Catholic to any Christian denomination or person to person.

“He has scattered the proud in their conceit (selfishness, forgetfulness anyone?). He has cast down the mighty from their thrones (“I’m usually, if not all the time, pretty much right.”) and has lifted up the lowly.

When we say “No” when the divine response is “Yes,” a needed duty. Then the soul informs the mind. Grace fills us up. When the “Yes’s” of your decisions so often turn out to be “No’s,” there a helpful church friend, an assisting church organization to wake up your soul and tune down that over-working mind of yours.

“He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”

“Yes,” my husband is dying. “Yes,” I lost my job, but I didn’t lose me, “Yes,” my life is going well for me, now how can I help others?

Multiple choice questions often offer a third option, “Not sure.” Mark that one when your first thought is “No.” We may be baffled by the mystery of this day, then check “Not sure.” Times in life and days like this are a mystery to be lived, not solved. (You’ll hear me say that often.)

From Our Lady of Guadalupe, another mysterious event. “Have you forgotten? I am your Mother. You are not alone. You are under my protection. Anything you need, ask me. Do not worry about anything. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Have you forgotten? I love you, and you are under my protection.”

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“Hide & Seek”

Brad Pitt is red carpet ready at the 'Allied' LA Fan EventI’m not a parent but I know that the very first game children are taught is…no wait…they are not taught or shown or coaxed on by their parents…

Their very first game is “Hide and Seek.” “Can my friend find me behind the couch?” “I’ll hide behind the door, it’ll drive my mother crazy.”

Jesus asks if we can find, uncover, unveil and then cherish the buried treasure. The hidden treasure.

The hidden that is not so hidden – it’s you and me. The other childhood game that is not taught but instinctual is dressing up to look like someone else. Very similar to “Hide and Seek.” Both are disguised to be where you are not or to be what you are not. (I look in the mirror and say to myself, “Good morning Brad [Brad Pitt].” The mirror yells back at me, “Yeah, good luck Joe!”

Those childhood games continue throughout our lives, only in adult forms. So often fashionable and acceptable but rarely risky. They are still childish but we still seem to love playing them.

“Where your treasure lies is where your heart lives,” Jesus says to us. What we think is elusive becomes obviously clear when lived through faith. When someone tells me that “I’m not a religious person, I’m spiritual,” I think to myself that only means that you get to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

Our treasure is captured beginning in this place. With the Eucharist to support and nourish us, we are able to take off our masks, even if for a short time; we are able to act humbly in an effort to make it more sincere in our lives; we are empowered to reveal our shortcomings, even if only in silence within this Body of Christ.

Jesus talks about passing possessions when the irony (correctly used here, by the way) is that Jesus possesses us all in mind, heart and soul. Jesus keeps saying to each of us, “I see you. Can you see me? I know where you’re hiding.”

Weird people love to talk about the devil possessing you. But, it’s the wrong noun. The correct proper noun is the man Jesus Christ. Stripped of his clothes (only to embarrass him), placed with a crown of thorns (to make him look who he is not), a purple cloak around him intended only for royalty (when he’s the servant to the least), along with the wrong inscription placed at the top of his cross (because his dad is the “King of the Jews,” not the Son.) You want to talk about “Hide and Seek” and wearing a disguise? Oh how about when folks thought Jesus was the new and improved John the Baptist? He wasn’t. No mask and no disguise.

The treasure, folks, is you and me. This treasure is lived through me but it needs you. (I think that’s called “church.) Every single time when you admit something to yourself, how many of your friends will quickly reply, “I wondered when you were going to see that?” They see it in us before we admit it about ourselves. (I think that’s called “evangelization.”)

Each of our seven sacraments is an unveiling from what was to what can be. Or better said, they are who you thought you were to who you really are. You don’t play “Hide and Seek” with Baptism (inherited sin to a new life), Confession (what happened to “Who I want to be?”), Confirmation (my parents made me do it, but I believe I want to do it), Marriage (from two to one, but still two) or Holy Orders (and, believe me, I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of it). Sacrament of the Sick, destroying the bridge between life and death, and the Eucharist which always timely places us in that timeless “in-between” time of life.

With your support and prayers, I can admit to myself the person that I am meant to be. And, with God’s grace, I am able to do the very same for you.

We all know the names of all our bodily organs. Which organ was not created by nature but created by God and pulsates within us?

Doesn’t the law say that “9/10’s is possession…”?

I really don’t mind this authentic treasure hunt. The beautiful but troublesome treasure hunt that is this life. It’s been blessed by God and the precious treasure is there for the digging.

Anyway, Brad’s getting to look old!

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She’s A Five Letter Religious Word

An author wrote, “I believe that there is flowing through us – those on earth, those in purgatory, and those who have reached true life – a great, unending stream made up of the sufferings, merits, and love of everyone, and that our least sorrow, our slightest efforts, can through [this five letter word] reach others, whether near or far, and bring them light, peace, and holiness.”

If you’re into crossword puzzles, here’s a puzzler for you. It’s five letters, works both “across” or “down,” as life would have it and, if it were possible, could even be spelled in-between; including the black boxes.

It’s a favorite word in the Church, but I don’t think we speak it enough in our daily lives. I sincerely know that we experience it. The Church, in its sometimes efforts to be anal, tries to divide it into two, not to better understand it but as an attempt to control it. Sorry Church leaders, this five-letter word cannot be controlled, managed, rationed, saved or counted. It is adverb, verb, adjective, proper noun, noun.

All three of the Trinity have and continue to experience her. (I switched from “it” to “her” because of the feminine nature.) When it comes to raising children, mothers rely on her even if never using her name. Fathers trust her for her strength. Both parents trust that she can deliver patience to trying situations in raising children. Alternatively, also in their own personal developments.

Like trying to count ants on your sidewalk, most churches get even more anal in trying to define her, not into two but eight different ways. Their eight-tried attempt is called actual, gratuitous, habitual, justifying, sacramental, healing, sufficient, and sanctifying.
However, those words are for those who need to write a school’s term paper, not for living a meaningful, holy life. She is meant for us folks who need her daily, who look for her often. If it’s written “across” the crossword puzzle, then it means “steady as life goes,” complete with our characters’ firmly in tact supported by her resilience. Scripture would call this “staying on the right path.” If she’s spelled in the “down” column then it’s what Scripture writes, “lest you dash your foot against a stone,” or “you stumble and fall” as we all happen to do. We need to be picked up by her and then fill in the “across” column.
Experiencing her is not only personal but communal. She’s contagious. We gather here for our private prayer before Mass begins and leave this place as the Body of Christ. To continue the living of the Body of Christ in what the Church calls the “marketplace.” For us lay folks, that means work, home, family and friends.

You will not find her crossword puzzle solution in tomorrow’s newspaper. You can only find her right in front of you and deeply embedded, and undyingly, breathing within you.

Enough of the tease. Can you guess who she is? Can you estimate what she is? Can you surmise where she is? Can you approximate what she does for each of us every, single day? Can you reckon why she does what she does?

She is entirely adverb, verb, adjective, proper noun, noun.

“Grace gracefully walks into the dining room and graces us with her graciousness before offering God a graceful prayer of Grace in her own, unique gracious way.”

(stage direction: the priest graciously walks away.)

 

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A Lovely Airport Story

empty-airport-terminal-waiting-area-chairs-lounge-seat-empty-airport-terminal-waiting-area-chairs-lounge-seats-108205004She was anxious to see her boyfriend again. It’d been two weeks since his business trip began. Meeting him at the airport was getting exciting. Not being able to attend his girlfriend’s mother’s funeral, he felt guilty and insisted on meeting her at the airport when she didn’t mind taking a taxi.

Her phone call came first. Flying from Denver to Chicago brought him home earlier than expected. The wind favored the airplane that day. The two years of dating for them began to talk of marriage, but they just weren’t sure. He was disappointed to learn that her flight was delayed in Atlanta. Anything about rain and Atlanta just goes dark. Her Chicago arrival was off by one hour. “Oh well,” he thought, “I’ll finish up at work, won’t have to rush now.” He met her through a friend of a friend, and they enjoyed their time together. Their relationship was getting more serious, but he wasn’t in a hurry.

They both happened to park next to each other at the airport. A quick smile between them led them to share the elevator to the arrival floor. Pre-2001, they were able to meet their friends at the gate. She went to the bathroom, and he bought a cup of coffee. She brought her book, and he sipped. An empty seat separated them. He recognized the book title, so he took a wild chance and asked her if it was worth it. “Oh yes,” she replied, “I can barely put it down.” He smiled. He said that he liked mysteries as well. “I’m a nurse, so I know the medical jargon,” she said. “I’m an accountant and don’t understand all the Latin, medical words.” “It gets easier after you use the words more and more,” she responded.

Years and years later, she swears that it was he gentle demeanor. He claims it was her eyes. Both agreed to an innocent lunch the following week. They picked up their respective friend and returned home.

Two weeks later he and she got married. Forty-five years ago. I worked with her for ten years and truly love telling her, I mean “their,” story.

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“Mary & Martha”

The problem with Martha is that she complained to Jesus. Mary was quite content but Martha had to open her big mouth. With apologies to Jesus, I offer my list of “Ten Peeves” to which I hold out to you for your own complaints. On this hot summer day, my seriously silly sermon.
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1.) Putting gum on your dinner plate, and after eating putting the gum back into your mouth. (Is gum that expensive?) Second only to reaching over with your fork without asking to taste my meal. (This isn’t “The Waltons,” it’s only the two of us.)
2) In a restaurant, wearing a baseball cap when you’re over thirty, for the whole meal, while eating. I understand a six-year-old, but you look like one.
3) Leaving church before it’s ended. (Does three more minutes truly wreck your busy schedule and your stress-ridden little life?)

For Martha, cooking was a mindless job, a tedious chore that needed to be done. No passion, no personal investment; hence a complainer she becomes. It’s like the difference between a contract and a covenant. An author writes, “A person entering into a contract doesn’t really change. She just finds some arrangement that will suit her current interest. A commitment..changes who you are, or rather embeds who you are into a new relationship. A contract is a transaction. A covenant is a relationship. …a contract is about interest. A covenant is about identity. This is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.” Mary was transformed in finding her passion, her identity. Martha, even at her age, was still searching ending up frustrated .

4) Crossing two lanes at the last minute to make a turn. Added to this is my deciding to drive through a yellow light and the driver behind me follows me closely through the light. What if I had decided not to proceed through that yellow light………

Here’s next week’s homework: (Children, please close your ears, this is for adults.) My psychologist who later became my friend told me of the “fours.” It’s “a, b, c and e.” I told him, “You can’t come up with an ‘d’?” He didn’t smile back at me. It’s “a, b, c and e. (I really think Jesus would have like it.) Here it is. Never, ever…”Apologize, Blame, Complain or Explain.” I’m still trying to understand what he meant years later but I believe it’s true. I fail again and again in those fours but there’s a truth to it that is Biblical, human and, most of all, healthy for all involved.

5) You hear one, single perspective or comment on the radio, television, or online, remember it and then repeat it to as many people as possible to show how intelligent and informed you are, as though the burning bush spoke to you. (Very common these days.)

Back to Martha, a rabbi writes, “spirituality is an emotion. Religion is an obligation. Spirituality soothes. Religion mobilizes. Spirituality is satisfied with itself. Religion is dissatisfied with the world. Martha only perceived “religion,” she hasn’t uncovered, unveiled her “spirituality.”

6.) Having dinner with someone who answers the cell phone and now you need to sit there and listen to that conversation (albeit one-sided) complete with that person’s laughter all of which is never shared with you. Followed by that person’s stupid apology. (Please refer to “a” under number four.)
7.) A friend of yours is sharing a personal story and you interrupt that person’s story by inserting a story of your own, almost erasing the person’s first story.

Here’s next week’s homework for us all: When someone begins to tell you a story, please slowly count to ten before interrupting. As the storyteller continues, count again to ten or twenty instead of interupting with your lame, supposedly complimentary story that now puts all the attention of you. Let the person in front of you finish his/her story. That way you will have saved a friendship and proven to yourself that you can quietly count to ten or twenty or thirty…all the while smiling. As we say these days, “That’s a win-win.”

8.) You’re holding a door for someone and that person then holds the door you’re holding as though I was going to let go of it and cause bodily harm to a person I don’t know.
9.) At a stop light, being forced to listen to loud music from the car next to me while I’m trying to listen to Patti Page sing about “Ole’ Cape Cod.”
10.) Having to think of ten things to write, just to make it a complete ten, instead of the nine things that I really wanted to say.

My sincere apologies to Jesus. (Yea right) I’m not a complainer, I’m not that kind of person. (Yea, right). It’s not in my nature. (Yea, right) There is no blame to be made. (Wrong!) I only want to explain why I’m the person that I am not. (Not)

Your tenth may be having to listen to a priest give a seriously silly sermon on a hot summer day.

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“The Good Samaritan”

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“A man is seen lying on the ground a short distance from you. He’s bleeding, in great pain and cannot move. Left for dead on a narrow path traveling on his twelves mile trek from one town to the next. Mountains surround the small road, so bandits have easy spaces and places to hide and rob. Who keeps walking on for common sense, selfish purposes? And who stops and offers the most Godlike/human response?” Before you know it, you’ll be entering ‘The Twilight Zone’ of Gospel stories.”

You may not know this, but there are many others who passed this hurting person. The first passerby is always our U.S. illusion of independence, so often wrongly defined and selfishly lived. The second passerby is the best of our country and more importantly the best of our beautiful Christian faith. The first says each time, “I’ll shoot for personal happiness,” and the second says each time, “No, I’ll shoot for meaning and moral joy.” Which one are you and which one can you be?

(Adapted from “The Second Mountain,” by David Brooks.)

The first says, “Celebrate independence,” when the second comes by and says, “I will celebrate interdependence. I will celebrate the chance to become dependent on those I care for and for them to become dependent on me.”

Next first guy celebrates autonomy, the second sees the wounded and “celebrates relation.”

First guy yells out where the nearest hospitals and soup kitchens are in a self-assured voice. Second guy stops to “listen and respond, communicating in the voice of intimate exchange.”

First guy boosts to himself (who else could or can he boost to?), “No one’s watching, so what do I care,” second guy whispers this is an “enchanted world, a moral and emotional drama.”

First guy doesn’t see much self-interest, turns away. Second one “says that a wold view that focuses on self-interest doesn’t account for the full amplitude of the human person.”

(First guy isn’t doing too well, is he?)

Again with this first guy, “I’m only interested in buying and selling.” Second believes and feels, the “main activity of life is giving. Human beings at their best are givers of gifts.”

First guy, “There’s a Sheraton not too far away. If I keep him there for three night, I’ll get American Airlines miles. Then when he’s better, I can coax him into the ‘Refer a Fiend’ program. I get 30,000 more free miles, and he’ll get 10,000 miles. It’s a ‘win-win.’ Who says, ‘I’m not a nice guy’?” Second guy, “There’s a Sheraton a short distance from here.” Period.

First guy once again, “You have to love yourself first before you can love others. Second steps up and says, “You have to be loved first so you can understand love, and you have to see yourself actively loving others so that you know you are worthy of love.”

Poor first guy … last one folks, “A person makes individual choices and keeps their options open.” Number two guy, Life is “a vale of promise making” and promise keeping. “It is about making commitments, tying oneself down, and giving oneself away. It is about surrendering the self to making the kind of commitment that, in the Bible, Ruth made to Naomi: ‘Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and you’re God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.’”

We’ve heard this gospel story too many times to not complete it with our response.

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Jesus says, “Follow me”

After talking to an AT&T representative, a recorded voice says, “Please stay on the line for one, simple question.”

“Ummm,” I think to myself. Alright. The voice returns, “If you owned a company, would you hire the person you just spoke to? Press 1 for ‘Yes,’ or 2 for ’No.’”

What an absolutely great way to rate someone. I love that. Jesus loves it too. Instead of asking a question, Jesus gives a mandate, “Follow me.” He doesn’t ask if you want to or not. He smiles at all the excuses we sometimes give him. “Yada, yadda, yadda,” Jesus thinks to himself while we rattle off all the reasons we can’t…

Oh wait. Reasons? There is nothing reasonable about following him and being a Christian. If you’re only concern is getting to heaven then I guess you have a reason, but I also feel sorry for you. Because you will never know the why of that smile in the eyes of someone receiving assistance from St. Vincent de Paul….listening to stories of past failures with your eyes of hope staring back…volunteering when you could be watching “The Guiding Light”…bringing communion to someone who wanted to be here but can’t…should I list fifteen more examples or do you get the picture?

There’s nothing reasonable about being a Christian. Just because your parents were ones doesn’t make you one. St. Paul calls us, “Fools for Christ,” witnessing in our own day and age, the “folly of the Cross.” A fool doesn’t know why he/she does crazy stuff but a Christian fool does.

In the examples I gave, it was all about doing when a Christian is all about being. By being a Christian, you are empowered to do in the name of Christ; only good, only holy, only worthy of his Father.

I guess in some ways, ours is a reasonable religion. Just ask Thomas Aquinas. But he also points out that without the feeling of Christ within our hearts and souls, it’s all meaningless words and dogmas.

The Blessed Mothers says, “My being proclaims the glory of the Lord.” She doesn’t mention her deeds but we know that her deeds flowed from her inner being, from her soul.

That AT&T gal was rated. Jesus doesn’t rate us with a 1 or 2 press of a button. Jesus says, “Follow me and then watch and see what happens to both your life and the lives of those you touch, in my name.”

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Communion: Reward or Grace, II

A Christian’s lifelong question – rarely answered to our satisfaction – but eternally inquired about: How does God participate in my life? What do I do in my life in relation to God. The Catholic Church has all kinds of debatable prayers that that causes us to think that we’re a little more in charge of our faith than we are. Indulgences is one example. We need to be careful to remember who the Creator is and who the created are. Clay cannot make itself. Clay needs a skillful Potter, a well built pottery wheel and a durable kiln…and heaps load of patience.

June’s special Sunday is Corpus Christi, honoring the body and blood of Christ.  But is receiving communion a reward or is it grace?  Is it about our past behavior or about our future actions and deeds? Is communion intended to be a type of treat for those who are doing a good job or is it intended to be a source of efficacious grace.  (I love the word efficacious although there are not many opportunities to use in daily conversation.) Although saying, “efficacious grace” is redundant.

Grace only produces the desired holy result that defines efficacious. Grace is the Potter’s wheel.Careful, wet hands creating a holy person and assisting those who wish to be holy. The Potter’s kiln is the spiritual heat that shapes the grace deeply inside the clay.

I offer this to you today for your personal reflection. Sinners and those slightly off the path need the Eucharist more than anyone. Instead of denying politicians communion, the bishops should be saying “You need to receive communion much more frequently than you presently are.  You need the grace of the sacrament to help you in your discernment and judgments.” That’s why, in second grade, confessions precedes communion. (Seven years old is still the age of reason. I don’t know about you but I’ve never talked to a reasonable seven year old? I hold out for thirty years old.)

Is it our attitude and preparation toward the Eucharist that makes it grace-filled or is it the reception that prompts better behavior and closer links to God, Jesus and Spirit? In other words, is it God working within us or is receiving the eucharist a bonus, a reward?
Receiving communion once a day was intended to make it special and not abused by hoping from the church to church. Again, the focus was on our thinking, that we can do something, like somehow blacktopping our way to eternal life, when that is solely reserved for the Potter.

It’s Tuesday and this is what happens. We receive communion at a morning Mass for that occasion. You then attend a funeral at Noon and receive communion honoring a good friend. The evening wedding reception of communion wishes the newlywed blessings in patience and perseverance. Three special occasions in one day asking God to bless each with that redundant efficacious grace.

Before receiving we admit that we are not worthy and then pray that the Potter continues to spin that grace within and through us.

We enter church and humbly admit that we are clay. We gather, as the Body of Christ receiving the Body of Christ, to honor the Potter. We open our hands or mouth and receive the Potter’s Son filling us up with all the graces we need to be the people the Potter created and hoped we would be.

And, if you have your Pick N’ Save card handy, you get three hours off of purgatory. (I’m kidding.)

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A Millenial’s Decision Time, Or Not

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“Okay, so I’m kinda, pretty close at that decision I can see directly in front of me. However, at some point, it seems that some of those other options are also attractive to me. I’m not sure but I think that sometimes making a decision is to be decisive. In a manner of speaking, it seems that multiple choices only prolongs decisive decisions, but that’s only how it appears; I’m not sure. Sometimes, but not always, I feel a sway leading me from one of them to one of the other ones that I’m still not sure about yet.

It appears that time is a factor but don’t hold me to it, at least all the time. In a manner of speaking, I suspect that a fashion of my decision depends a little (or a lot) on what I know and what I don’t know.

If my behavior bothers you, I apologize even though it sometimes, rarely happens. There’s a slight chance that I may be nearing a decision very soon, if not later. In a way, I strongly believe that a slight pause may assist me in my deliberations.

(Is my childhood bicycle helmet the result of my waverings? If I fell off my bike a time or two, would it have taught me a lesson? Was mom calling me a snowflake every morning, the unique person that I am, the cause of my “mights” and “sometimes’?)

I’m not sure but I sometimes and often times, wonder. Well, I’m done for now. I think or confidently hold that this treatise is close enough.”

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Sun, Moon & Lovers

(A friend challenged me to write a short story using the words, “sun, moon and lovers.” How did I do?)

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It was in a restaurant and, of course, I was late. A friend of a friend set us up and told me to look for a guy in a red sport coat. (I guess red isn’t that popular, hence…)

I spotted him and noticed he already had a glass of wine. I didn’t mind. I smiled as we shook hands. (Forget the pre-wine, he held the chair for me. That goes miles for me.) It’s weird, but it didn’t take long into our conversation, waiting for the food, that I began to notice my reflection in his face. In talking about my struggles at work, he was affirming but not in the first-date sort of way. He truly listened to me and even offered some helpful tips about perspective and not taking myself too seriously. It was a delightful meal, as though we had many meals like that. But that was the first.

On our fiftieth anniversary, the card he gave me said that his life with me reflected back to him all the good he was able to do. Then he quoted Jerry MacQuire saying, “You complete me.” Yes, I cried. Our five children and grandchildren attended our family party, and I was able to see in all of them, the reflections back and forth between their father and me.

I look at the sun in the morning and feel its warmth throughout the day. The moon, with all its phases, has influenced me uncountable times. The union of these illuminating, celestial beams had truly made us lovers.

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