I am sitting at the Reno Airport, headed home 5 days sooner than I had hoped or planned. Last week my father was diagnosed with arterial blockage and then hospitalized in the fair city of David after becoming progressively weaker and tired. He was released from the hospital and sent home to wait to treat the blockage. The plan was he’d fly to Panamá this coming Tuesday for angioplasty and to get a stent put in. Yesterday, I got increasingly concerned calls from Panamá–Dad continues to get more weak and the people around him in Boquete are concerned. The timing is awful, of course. This retreat has been grace-filled beyond words and selfishly, I so wanted to get to do the full thirty days as planned. After taking so many days off from work, any further absence is really hard on the whole system. And what I barely allow myself to deal with is the fear about my Dad and his health. I have tried to strike a balance. I am heading home to Fort Lauderdale so I can get to Panamá very quickly if the situation worsens. But for now, we are leaving the plans in place and a friend from Boquete will go down to Panamá City with my dad on Tuesday. One of my cousins who lives in the city will also be available to help for what should be a relatively easy procedure.
In the Ignatian Exercises there are four ‘weeks’, four steps, if you will into the life, death and resurrection of Christ. When the calls began yesterday, I was in an especially intense part of the 3rd week. In a sense, I was observing Good Friday. I woke up at four in the morning. My room at St Nicholas is one of those places that’s so dark when you turn out the lights that you can’t even see your hand in front of you. I lay in that pitch darkness and it occurred to me that even on Good Friday, there was a dawn. For Jesus’ friends, it was not welcome–it only made more real what had happened the night before and only held the promise of even more violence and horror. But somewhere in God’s creation, that morning dawned as crisp, and clear and beautiful as the first morning.
With that in mind, I got it in my mind to go out to the dock where my friends and I gathered at the beginning of the retreat to catch the sun coming up over Lake Tahoe. At 6:00 I walked out the door all bundled up against the 21 degree temperatures and headed on my usual route. There are some pictures of the sunrise at the end of this posting. To say it was a holy time in the most majestic of cathedrals imaginable does not do the morning justice.
I want to think that along with finding myself thoroughly in the 3rd week of the Exercises, yesterday morning I got to see a flash-forward of the fourth week. Sad as I am to have to cut my retreat time short, I am also certain that I need to be closer to my dad, praying I won’t be needed. Last night, Joe, who has walked with me and helped open the way for doing the Exercises, wrote me an incredibly beautiful note encouraging me to consider that it is back in my “cotidianidad” (everyday-ness) where I can best experience how resurrection intersects with my life.
This morning, I was up early, cleaning up and leaving the flat I got to call home for the past 26 days ready for someone else who needs the respite and blessing I found. Then I walked down the path I have followed every day since I arrived in Tahoe, to get some money out of the closest ATM. Like yesterday, today is crystal clear, cold and stunningly beautiful. During my time on retreat, there was an elm tree I got to be particularly fond of in that path. When I arrived, it was still green with just a tinge of yellow. Over time, I watched the leaves turn, found myself deeply moved by the way in which the leaves, already yellow and paper-thin frail, continued to dance tremulously with the breezes off the lake. Today, there were hardly any leaves left, just the strong, beautiful trunk and branches covered in ash-colored bark. Death and life. I leaned against my friend and wept.
I leave this time with new clarity. Joy, sadness, some regret, unexpected hope, deeper friendship, all woven together, and as the Hymn to the Eternal Flame reminds me, woven into Fire. All of us, all our work, all we are, everything is always in the process of being purified, consumed, transformed–transubstantiated–in God’s love which is like fire. I have seen that as loss and destruction. Today, it seems to me that it allows us to be energy set free, made available for the work of love and grace. So it is that I am set free, headed back to my everyday life with all its promise of resurrection.