Wed Jan 7 – Remembering Mike Witkowski

Wednesday, January 7 –  grief and hope, goodbye and new birth

One of UofD’s graduates before we were UDM majored in biology, and then spent time as a Jesuit Volunteer in New Jersey where she and her husband Pat met and fell in love.  Now, years later, Kathy Lilla Cox is a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.  Pat, like 10 of my relatives, is an attorney.  Kathy did me a favor a few days ago and sent me this poem about the power of blessings in the midst of loss.  The poet, Jan Richardson lost her husband to sudden death a year ago, December 2013.

Reading the poem brings me back into UDM’s chapel on Monday when many of us gathered with Mike Witkowski’s family to say goodbye to this good man.  Ike McKinnon, former Chief of Police in Detroit, a UDM professor on leave to serve as Deputy Mayor of Detroit, offered the eulogy.  “‘Mike and Ike’ we called ourselves when we conducted training sessions for law enforcement officers around the upper midwest. Sometimes we called ourselves ‘the American Dream,’  both of us grew up poor on the East Side of Detroit;  one black, one white, and now we are professors at UDM.”  Soul friends.  Mike died a young sixty.  Lots of us will miss him.

It’s best to read the poem out loud, with some pauses.

Have a good day.


john sj

Blessing When the World is Ending

Look, the world
is always ending

the sun has come
crashing down.

it has gone
completely dark.

it has ended
with the gun
the knife
the fist.

it has ended
with the slammed door
the shattered hope.

it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone
the television
the hospital room.

it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.

But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.

It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.

This blessing
will not fix you
will not mend you
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.

It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins

-Jan Richardson


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