At the Eremos Gala on November 8th, Rev. Nancy Chester McCranie, M.Div., Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services at Hospice Austin, spoke to Jean’s legacy by sharing a letter she wrote to Jean. Deeply touched by this letter, we wanted to be sure many more in our community had a chance to read her words.
It seems like only last week you were here with us at this beautiful, heartfelt gathering with your fancy dress and your radiant smile. How can it be that it’s been almost 9 months since you left?
I miss you.
WE miss you.
Much to my surprise, the earth has continued to turn on its axis and, at least 10 minutes ago which was the last time I checked my twitter feed, our fragile and fraying democracy is still mercifully intact.
Needless to say, a lot has happened since you slipped away. Both in our lives and in the world. There have been unexpected things that have taken us by surprise. There have been horrible, violent things that have broken our hearts. There have been wonderful, life-giving things that have renewed and strengthened us.
So many times we have thought of you and longed to call you; to sit with you awhile and listen together for how the Spirit is moving in and around us. Since you’ve been gone we’ve been learning to listen in the ways you taught us. In the ways YOU listened: with your whole self; expectantly; patiently; hopefully.
I remember sitting and listening with you about this time two years ago after another momentous election. The one that shook me to my core.
What are we supposed to do now?!? I asked from a place of fear and bewilderment.
You closed your eyes and leaned your head back, breathing in deeply.
What the world needs in this moment are people who know how to sit and wait in the darkness, you said.
Nodding, you opened your eyes and looked into mine in that direct way of yours.
Because those who can learn to sit still in the dark, you said, will be the ones able to recognize the light when it returns.
Honestly, Jean, it’s not exactly what I was hoping you would say. I think I wanted something more along the lines of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Instead you offered your signature dish: Wisdom a la Jean.
When you wake in the night, you continued, instead of turning on the light or reaching for a device…practice welcoming the dark. Make friends with it. Learn its contours. Be still. Wait. Watch.
Well, I’ve been practicing, Jean. I readily admit that it’s not my favorite practice. But I have discovered a few things while sitting in the dark. My heart is learning to be less fearful and more curious; more courageous; more fiercely loving. I am learning that cultivating inner stillness is the antidote to panic. I am noticing that there is liberation and even joy to be found in the dark. And as my eyes have adjusted, I have discovered that there are so many of us awake and practicing. Watching, waiting, loving, hoping.
Jean, I think you would be so proud of us. We really were listening. We really ARE listening.
The poet Jack Gilbert writes that it is the having, not the keeping that is the treasure.
Dearest Jean. We wanted to keep you with us forever. But of this there is no doubt: having you was a treasure that continues to bless and enrich us.
Sometimes when I am sitting in the dark, if I am still and quiet enough, I can sense you sitting with me, nodding your head and smiling, listening and watching. Being love.
I sense you here now. With us. Beckoning us to enter into our own lives more fully; to plunge more deeply into the heart of love for the whole world, especially for the one in front of us.
We miss you Jean. We thank you with all our hearts. And we will always love you.