Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reverend Fred K. Bailey: ..."All Saints and All Souls, these are good days in which to sort through your own Feelings, Fears and Joys"

Dear Friends:

Being the only person in my family conceived, born and raised
upon Orange County soil I never experienced frequent/
casual interactions with extended family. While I had/have an extensive retinue of cousins, aunts and uncles on both
sides of my family, connecting with them entailed long trips to Albany, New York on my/our part (or taking the bus
as my sister and I had to do one summer when the airlines went on strike...ugh!!!) or for them accepting equally long
trips from there to here. As a youth I remember scattered and infrequent times connecting with my East Coast relatives;
each time it felt like we were mostly strangers meeting for the first time. Having grown up within a modest family of
FIVE (and that was only when my Navy-brother was home) it seemed alien to hear how ALL these relatives of mine
were so interwoven with each other. They had volumes of stories and memories, each entwined around their familiar
places, people and images, none of which were familiar to me nor included my immediate family or me. In like manner,
whatever stories I/we would share related our lives in California and were equally absent their participation. I will admit
that being in the midst of such connected blood-relatives made me wonder what my life would have been like had I
been born and raised among them. Alas, after a few days/weeks in their company it would become overwhelming with
so many relatives, so many ‘have-to-attend’ events, so many people wanting to know where I was going and what I
would be doing. Returning to my ‘modest’ family in Anaheim was always tinged with a hint of melancholy ...knowing
that I had a vast network of relatives but realizing I was more comfortable with the world I was creating rather than one
into which I would have been inserted as one more relative.

These reflections on my extended family were brought about by the recent news of the death of my last maternal First
Cousin, Anne Girven. She had been a fierce and heroic single mother, raising her daughter and then her grandchildren
with abundant presence and love. Anne was the last of the
generation that had known my mom and dad, she being the daughter of Isabel, my maternal grandmother’s sister. With her passing, my connections with the East have become
more tenuous; time, distance, different life choices all intersecting to confirm/seal the life choices I have made. As much
as I wanted to find and uncover the heritage from which I had sprung, I am aware that I have no connection at all with
the second, third and fourth generations of cousins that continue to grow. In off ering a Mass for Anne it dawned on me that I was probably saying a prayer of blessing and goodbye upon my upstate NY connections; while still beautiful,historic and worthy of occasional ‘tourist’ visits, that world of the East is now only names with whom I have no history nor shared experiences. My world is what I have made it, here in OC, here in Yorba Linda.

With All Saints and All Souls Day having just been commemorated, these are good days to ponder the shifts within our
own lives that have been brought about through the deaths of our family and friends. Upon hearing the news of assorted
people with whom we were once close, am I the only one that wonders what would our friendships have resembled if
both parties had continually nourished them? What are the unresolved ‘what-ifs’ that were never discussed? Are there
wounds that refuse healing because we are now the only party still alive and remembering? Do our reminiscences cause
more pain than joy because there is no one with whom to share them? What are the ‘life-lessons’ that mentors taught
us? To whom have we passed these same lessons? What are the deepest values and directions that have guided you
throughout life and from whom did you gain them? Whom have you assisted in discerning their foundational values
and directions by which you will live into the future?

When we gather as priests at Priest Retreat or as we recently did at the Clergy Community Day, I see the full spectrum of
ages of priests ranging from Seminarian Interns to newly ordained to guys celebrating 50, 60 and more years ordained.
I occasionally see old pictures of when I resembled today’s young interns/newly ordained and like them I once had
a youthful face, eager energy, bright eyes and a full head of hair. I remember the excitement of what they are now
experiencing for the first time. I also recall the slow passage of years that added pounds to my waist, stole the blonde
from my hair and frequently filled my eyes and heart with tears, only some of which could be shared in public. I see the
guys older than me and realize that is what awaits me...and I pause and wonder at the marvelous grace of it all, I am but
a part of a continuum of life. The aches and pains of arthritis (and occasional zip-lining) remind me I am not who I once
was and in the youthful clergy I see those who will someday be where I am now... I realize that my picture and name
will be commemorated in the honoring of those who have served and died in service to the people of Orange. Scary
or disturbing? Not really, although it is odd to be looking much closer at the end of things (as I know them now) rather
than developing a career, building relationships and cavalierly living as if I have forever to accomplish all the things I
imagine doing. All Saints and All Souls, these are good days in which to sort through your own feelings, fears and joys.
As you ponder the things of life (which includes the door of death) please know that you are in my heart.



November 3, 2013

No comments: