November 11 home cooking with Gail Burnett last evening — remembering soul friends we love — saying goodbye from deep down

Monday November 11
“ . . . 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.”

Gail cooked a lovely dinner, we sat and told stories about the loves of our lives in her home where we have often gathered before, usually with Beth Ann Finster, ssj and David, Gail’s husband of many years. David died last June, Beth is now on the Leadership team of her congregation in Buffalo. Last night when I had driven back to campus, I looked at the blue and black afghan Connie di Biase had created for me years back. Connie died on February 10, 2017, another soul friend. I looked up this post, originally from January 23, 2017, c. two weeks before she died.

I am re-posting as a tip of my soul’s hat to Gail and Beth, to David and Connie, and to the c. 2600 readers of this list who know deep grief and the deep beauty that comes with it.

john sj

p.s. Thank you Gail, for a lovely dinner last evening.


Connie de Biase, csj, soul friend of 40 years, died on Feb 10, 2017 in Brentwood Long Island, c. 6:15 pm

– “a mutual commitment to noticing”
Over 4 decades of kinship, Connie de Biase and I partnered in 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 new baked bread. While I drove home, we would talk about the condition of our inner lives. Through Connie’s last year, our talk was more brave and sad as she recognized her growing diminishment, her grief at losing the life in Madison, CT that she loved and lived so gracefully. Ignatius calls such talk paying attention to “inner disturbances,” both consolations and desolations. Noticing.

originally posted January 23, 2017 (c. 2 weeks before she died)
Perhaps this Denise Levertov poem came to mind because I flew into JFK Saturday, braved Long Island’s expressways with their too tight turns matched by slightly-too-narrow lanes, to spend time with my dying soul friend, Sr. Consuela de Biase, csj. Connie has become frail, like the ancient poet in today’s poem. She misses nothing, I realized, but you have to lean in close to hear; worn with fatigue, she whispers, and pauses to breathe. We visited three times (c. 90 minutes; c. 25 minutes; and 4 or 5 at the end when we said goodbye before I headed back to JFK early Sunday). I love it that the 40 mile drive on the parkway was wearing; it reminds me that those miles and our 3 conversations are of a piece with decades of mutual listening, the fabric of life with Connie.

Have a blest week.
john sj


Today’s Post “In Love”

Denise Levertov writes of an ancient poet whose frail strengths remind me of Connie and David. Perhaps this wintry but hardly arctic morning might tempt you to open your window or step outside so you can read “In Love” while breathing a little.

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


Consuela (Connie)
August 2006




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