I went to St. Louis for General Assembly. The ministers meet for a couple of days before the lay delegates arrive—it was good to catch up with lots of old friends, though there’s inevitable news of illnesses and deaths.
I especially appreciated presentations by Sharon Salzberg, who talked about her experience with Buddhism. I thought of the old saying, “When I’m a Buddhist my family hates me; when I’m the Buddha, they love me.” She was the Buddha. She wasn’t trying to convince or convert.
Bill Schulz, who recently completed his ten-year presidency of Amnesty International’s American division, offered the Berry Street Lecture, “What Torture Has Taught Me.” It was extremely moving – thoughtful, personal and provocative.
The Wednesday night opening ceremony, with the banner parade, is always an inspiration, and this year was not a disappointment. Our Westport delegation was spirited, especially when we saw our banner.
On Thursday morning I participated in a workshop with David Vita and Frances Sink, where we talked about the process we went through to call a Social Justice Director. The workshop was well attended – Frances, David and I made presentations about our experience in the process, and there were lots of good questions and comments.
After the workshop I walked back to my hotel room and the little red light on the phone was blinking, indicating that I had a phone message. As soon as I heard the voice of my oldest brother, Chet, I listened with anxiety. He apologized for calling with news he knew would be very difficult for me to hear, preparing me with a few introductory words, then he said, “Kim died last night.”
I was stunned. My dear 34-year old niece died suddenly and unexpectedly in her home, where I had visited her last summer, in Maine. She was healthy and happy. She had been living with Multiple Sclerosis for fourteen years, but was nearly symptom-free.
I sat there, alone, for a few minutes. I thought of how devastating this is for my brother Art and his wife, Mary, who have been so devoted to Kim. She worked in their family business and they bought a house for her, nearby.
Before I got up from the desk chair I had made arrangements to get the next flight home, so I could be with Art, Mary and my family. Kim, like her mother, was Catholic. They had a wake for her in Wilmington, Massachusetts, on Saturday, then another wake in Livermore Falls, Maine, on Sunday, and a funeral at St. Rose of Lima Church on Monday morning.
I participated in each of the wakes, the funeral Mass, and the graveside service. Father Roger Chabot, the parish priest, was very gracious, inviting me to do a reading and eulogy.
Two days after Kim’s funeral Lory and I went to Greece for Steve and Melissa’s wedding