I used to think in my early twenties that I would either make a go of the world, let go of my black and white, get elbow deep into the muck of the world, or move to Vermont...

I used to think in my early twenties that I would either make a go of the world, let go of my black and white, good vs. bad thinking, get elbow deep into the muck of the world, or move to Vermont... read more here
The Sun Peaks Through – A Wedding and a Funeral

The Sun Peaks Through – A Wedding and a Funeral

Life was so divinely orchestrated yesterday, I felt like I was a character in a movie.  First I attended the funeral of a good friend who at 76 passed away last week.  She shared my love of Jesus, was a model of childlike faith, perseverance, and how to be a loving spouse and mother.

I first met Dottie five years ago when we each were teaching religious education at our parish, she taught in one of the first grade classes and I in the other.  Our friendship began in earnest though 2 1/2 years ago when her husband was nearing the end of his life.

Dotty instilled in me through her stories of their love and through her own sacrifice what the actions of a mature love looks like.  I would listen to her talk about how she viewed her husband, how deeply she cared for him, and sheepishly think to myself, “Hmmmm that’s not how I always am with my husband.”

I found out about Dottie’s passing last Sunday in Mass.  Even though I knew she hadn’t been feeling well for some months it still came as a shock.  I mourned the loss of my friend.  When I found out her funeral would be on my wedding anniversary though, I smiled.

Seventeen years ago yesterday I pledged to love, honor, and cherish, my husband Kevin, in good times and bad, till death do we part  and for the first time in 17 years it looked as if Kevin and I were not going to be together on our anniversary.

Our oldest three boys and Kevin were scheduled to be on a retreat for Catholic Boy Scouts.  Kevin was one of the arrangers of this retreat weekend which at one point had its date changed due to a scheduling conflict and somehow the fact that the rescheduled date was our anniversary weekend didn’t click with him till it was too late.

Any other year I would have let anger get the best of me over this, but by the grace of God this year I didn’t.  I let it go, I let God handle it.  Instead of being together on our actual anniversary, we planned that I would head over to the camp (about an hour away) the next day on Sunday for an intimate Mass in the mess hall.  It would be something fun to do with the four little ones still with me and I wouldn’t have to try to wrangle them at Mass by myself.

On Friday as Kevin and our older boys were packing up to go, I felt melancholy.  I knew it wasn’t “that big a deal” but I was sad that I wouldn’t see him on our anniversary.  Trying to make sure I had all the info for Sunday, I asked him what time Mass would be at.  He checked his email and he said the Mass was changed to Saturday afternoon.  I would see him on our anniversary after all.

My friend Heather was so kind to come over to watch the boys for me on Saturday morning so I could attend Dottie’s funeral.  Dottie always dressed to the nines for Mass often wearing elegant hats to complete her ensemble.  I tried to honor her in the black and white sundress I wore.  I hunted down a curling iron in a drawer it has sat untouched in for years, to give my hair a little lift too.  Dottie’s is the first funeral I have attended in Vermont for a friend in the 11 years I have lived here.

I sat near her usual spot.  I sang the hymns, praised Jesus, looked up at the statue of The Risen Jesus that was so close to Dottie’s heart, felt her presence, and remembered her…  Afterwards at a local Inn I had the opportunity to meet and talk to two of her three children and a few of her grade school friends.  I was able to tell her children how much I loved their mom and that her life made an impact on mine.

As I drove back home after the funeral, time was running short for making it in time for the Mass at the Boy Scout camp.  So when I arrived, I thanked my friend for watching the boys, got them packed up in the car, grabbed a few snacks, and our wedding candle (I thought maybe the priest could just have it lit at the altar or something).  I didn’t really have time to change so I just slipped on a pair of sandals instead of the heels I had on and we headed off.

I drove our big 12 passenger van over the hills of Vermont in and out of rain, the sun sneaking out here and there, following my directions to the camp.  I pulled up as Kevin was walking the dirt road to meet us. Normally I would have felt self conscious to have been wearing a fancy dress to a Boy Scout camp, but this day I didn’t, I was just happy we made it in time and happy to see Kevin.

The first thing that Kevin told me as we pulled up, after “Happy Anniversary!” was that the Mass was going to be said in honor of Dottie.


While driving the winding way through the country side of Vermont over to the Boy Scout camp I was thinking about our marriage and about how I had dealt with the little bump of not being together on our anniversary and how even though it hadn’t been easy for me I had given Kevin grace for it and a few other moments like it lately.  And I thought how different that was from so many bumps we have had in the past, and felt in my soul that not making a big deal about it gave us a peace instead of stealing it and gave Kevin a true feeling of love and me the opportunity to practice the “action” of love.  I thought to myself about how our marriage has grown and how I was excited for our future married life together and how this was just the beginning…

As we were getting out of the van I mentioned to Kevin that I brought our wedding candle.  I watched as he took it over to the priest to explain that it was our anniversary and to ask if we could have it on the altar during Mass or something.

Instead the priest suggested we use it in a ceremony during Mass where we renew our wedding vows.

Jesus took me from the funeral of my friend and a mentor in marriage to this humble scout camp where I would end up renewing my wedding vows.  And just to tie a bow around the whole event with Kevin dressed in his uniform and I in my dress… we were even dressed for it.  Our 7 sons and the other adults and boy scouts there watched as we again pledged to love, honor, and cherish, each other, in good times and bad, till death do we part, with Kevin’s eye glistening at me through his smile just like he did 17 years ago.

pictured left: Our wedding 17 years ago. (photo by Cheryl Levine Photography) pictured right: Renewing our wedding vows at Mass at the Catholic Retreat for Boys Scouts yesterday.

Jesus you orchestrated it all…

How could I have ever doubted you?

Dottie, may you rest joyfully for eternity with our risen Lord and your husband Ed.  Thank you for your friendship and your witness and Happy Anniversary to Kevin, my partner, my husband, my friend.

Sending you all love as the sun peaks through the clouds while driving through the winding hills of Vermont,


Life… It’s an Act of Faith & Love

Life… It’s an Act of Faith & Love

So I sent six of my children off to school this morning on faith…  Yesterday, unfortunately like in so many places on different days in our world, our high school and many surrounding schools in town were in lockdown because of threats of violence at our very large high school.  My oldest son spent the morning and afternoon sheltered with lights off under a table in his English classroom far from the door and I spent the day on social media and news outlets praying and looking for updates.

The person who made the threats is still at large.  The school and grounds were scoured by police and deemed safe, but that man is still out there…

Yet today I still sent my sons back to school.

This week for us Christians is Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday at the end.  Tonight we celebrate Jesus’ last Passover meal with his friends, the meal where he lets Judas, one of those “friends” know that he knows what he has done, and to “go and do it quickly”.

What Judas has done is sell his friend, his God, for 30 pieces of silver.  Jesus is betrayed by one of those closest to him.  Whenever there is violence in this world, we too are betrayed by our “human family”.  Whenever we disregard people in need, choose to look the other way when someone is being bullied, or think jealous thoughts, gossip, etc. we too are betraying our “neighbors”.

It’s unsettling knowing the man who made the threats is out there, knowing there are so many Judas’ in our midst willing to betray us for 30 pieces of silver, and that sometimes I am one of them.  Sometimes I betray you with my words for a laugh, or in my thoughts to make myself feel better, or in my actions when tired and cranky and I am unkind to you.

I prayed last night for the students, the parents, the teachers, and administrators, and the police who were involved yesterday.  I also prayed for the man who made the threats.  I prayed for goodness to enter his life and that he might turn to peace instead of violence.  And still as I slept I dreamed of him, finding out who he was, going to law enforcement to let them know, I so humanly want that feeling of closure and its comforting sense of safety.

It was such a joy when all the kids made it back home yesterday and we were all under one roof again.  I processed things a bit with my oldest son who really seemed none the worse for wear for the day, though I think it really hadn’t sunk for him.  I tried to explain what happened, at least what we knew, and he told us his version.

When I felt he comprehended the day a little more, I ended with as much earnestness as I could saying: “That’s why we have to try to be the very best people we can be in this world, to bring as much good into the world as we can.”.  He then rolled his eyes at me, he’s heard it before from me, and I suppose it ends up sounding trite, but I believe it with all my heart…

Our goodness spreads.

I will send my kids to school, teach them to love deeply in service to others, let them know that when they fail sometimes and they ask to be forgiven they will be forgiven, and that they can start again and again and become the people God made them to be.

I will teach them to see the dark in themselves and the dark in others as an action, an action against good, and to recognize it.  To know that the often difficult choice and action of love is what will overtake the darkness in our world and our own souls.

Jesus, that man/God, didn’t allow himself to be crucified for nothing.  He did it for all of us.  He did it for yesterday, for a man with evil intentions, and for us with our good hearts, tired hearts, broken hearts, and everything in between.

With love from Vermont,


Alas, this sleepy town in Vermont, has been through this threat before 10 years ago, except then darkness acted and lives were taken.  I wrote a little about it a few years ago when we had roof issues.)





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