April 15 – Monday of Holy week – remembering Connie de Biase, sj ( † Feb 10, 2017, c. 6:15 pm)

Monday April 15, 2019 – “a mutual commitment to noticing”

Over 4 decades of kinship, Connie de Biase and I shared a mutual commitment to noticing.   Now that she’s left us,  I miss her most on Saturday mornings when driving into center city to buy Avalon Bakery fresh bread for my Jesuit community.    As I drove home, we would tell stories  about our inner lives.  Through Connie’s last year, our talk became more brave and sad as she recognized her growing diminishment and her grief at losing the life in Madison, CT that she loved and lived so gracefully.  Ignatius calls this kind of story-telling, paying attention to our “inner disturbances” (i.e., both  consolations and desolation), a commitment to noticing.

N.B., what follows was originally posted January 23, 2017 (c, 2 weeks before Connie died)

“Perhaps this Denise Levertov poem came to mind because this last Saturday I flew into JFK, braved Long Island’s expressways with their too tight turns and  too-narrow lanes, to spend time with my dying soul friend, Sr. Consuela de Biase, csj.   Connie has become frail.  She misses nothing, I gradually realized, but you have to lean in close to hear.  Worn with fatigue, she whispers, with long pauses to breathe.  We visited three times  (c. 90 minutes,  25 minutes, and 5 minutes when we said goodbye before I headed back to JFK early Sunday).  She let me know that she heard every word even as her life’s energy slipped away. The 40 mile drive on the parkway immersed me in sadness from one of my life’s deepest goodbyes, tender and still.  The miles and our 3 whispered conversations are of a piece with decades of mutual listening, the fabric of Connie’s life.

Monday of Holy Week, 2019

In today’s poem Denise Levertov writes of an ancient poet whose frail strengths remind me of my friend.   This Monday of Holy Week in Detroit, even with its soft morning rain,  invites me to open a window to read “In Love” out loud, with pauses.  No matter where you are as you read today’s post, the Levertov’s language holds a promise of surprise.  For Christians these days are called “Holy Week.”  Wherever your soul and imagination locates you in the world, I wish you the poet’s story telling and its sacred place for listening.

johns sj

Today’s Post   “In Love”

Over gin and tonic (an unusual treat) the ancient poet
haltingly —not because mind and memory
falter, but because language, now,
weary from so many years
of intense partnership,
comes stiffly to her summons,
with unsure footing —
recounts, for the first time in my hearing, each step
of that graceful sarabande, her husband’s
last days, last minutes, fifteen years ago.

She files her belongings freestyle, jumbled
in plastic bags — poems, old letters, ribbons,
old socks, an empty picture frame;
but keeps her fifty years of marriage wrapped, flawless,
in something we sense and almost see —
diaphanous as those saris one can pass through a wedding ring.

Denise Levertov  1923 – 1997


Connie laughing,  smiling,  contemplative  August 2006

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