Postcards from the Road: Final, at least for this Journey

Well, four months seems like forever, and at the same time like it was yesterday.  I think pilgrimages are best when that is the feeling at the end, a bit of both all mixed in.  That is how I feel.  I have called this the “last postcard from the road” but in reality we are always sending them, and I hope to be too.  The “road” is not just those we travel far away places to walk, but certainly are every step of life.  That is a great lesson from this time away, known to a degree when we set out, but deepened I believe now, with that time past.

In my last post, which I do admit was some time ago, I had just returned from the hike in Yosemite.   After that the wheel started spinning even more.  I traveled to New York City for the Church Pension Fund Board meeting on which I sit, and then after a few days home, and a great farewell concert in Tacoma by Elton John, (where I saw some of you!) I left again to Minneapolis for one day of the House of Bishops meeting.   I very much wanted to be present to see the State of the Church Committee give its report.  Nearly everyone on this committee is much younger than the average demographic for the Episcopal Church, and I have been inspired by their work so far.  The Rev. Kate Wesch, Rector, St. John the Baptist, West Seattle, and the head of our deputation for Olympia, sits on this committee.    I was certainly not disappointed by my choice and I continue to have great hope for this Church after being with them.

After that, I had the longest stretch at home during this sabbatical, about 10 days, before I headed back to New York City for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem Board meeting which I Chair.  We were very blessed to have the Archbishop of Jerusalem, the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani present with us for that meeting.

suheil 2019 NYC

The Archbishop was given the high honor of an installation in a seat at St. John the Divine in New York by the Dean and Bishop.

AB and Bishop Dietsche

While in New York on this trip I received word that my maternal aunt had died of lung cancer in LA after a long, valiant, graceful fight right to the end.    Blessedly I had flown down there, all in one day, in June to see her and to tell her goodbye.  The family asked me to preside at her memorial and burial and so Marti and I flew down to LA, and back, on that Wednesday.   She was a California Angel’s fan through and through, and so the theme was “Angel’s” among which I believe she mingled and does now.  I loved her very much.  Being from Seattle, the Angels shirt was not easy to don, except for the honor of doing it for her.  She was the greatest aunt.

 

 

 

 

Our family, but especially my mother had a tough October, losing both her brother, my uncle Hal, and then her sister JoAnn.  This is a picture of my mother and her surviving brother, my uncle Bill, who is now 91 and doing well.

Mom and Bill

The next day, after 9 hours at home, back to the airport again and we headed to Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits Festival there.  This was something, while living in Austin for almost 10 years off and on, we had never attended.  It is a pilgrimage in every respect.  6 stages, some amazing acts, and some amazing people watching too.   It was also good to be back in Austin, a town we will always love.

 

 

 

 

The largest picture above is of closing night, Mumford and Sons, who on that morning decided to invite the entire Austin High School Marching Band to the stage to honor all musicians.  It was a pretty cool moment.

We returned from Austin for literally less than 24 hours.  Our flight from Austin landed at 10 p.m. Monday night, and Tuesday morning I was heading back for a 12 noon flight to Omaha.  Omaha was not originally part of my sabbatical plan.   As I learned, and as we all learn in life, pilgrimages are those we choose, and many we do not.  LA and the death of my maternal aunt the week before was not, and Omaha was inserted into this time because of my fraternal aunt’s stroke just before sabbatical started.  I am her Power of Attorney and so, much of this four months was a blessing to have because of all that was required in tending to her needs, getting her settled in a memory care facility, two to be exact, before finding the one that really worked, selling her house, moving her out of an assisting living facility, getting access to her finances, selling two cars, etc, etc.  So many of you have traveled this unsolicited road.  I was grateful for a few days with her and that her new place is one she loves and I was also so comfortable with.  It gave me much greater confidence in living at this distance.  And it turned out this unplanned trip was such an important part of this sabbatical, this discernment, this moment in my life and our life together.  I was born in Omaha and spent much of my first 4 years of life there, with a year stint in Washington DC where my father completed his Master’s at Gallaudet University.  I had not been back to Omaha and Iowa, where my family owns about 400 acres of farm land, in probably 40 years.   I was able to go see the house I lived in for those first four years, a house built by my grandfather.

Omaha House 2019

I was able to see the house my mother grew up in.  She lived in that upstairs window room.

omaha mom's house 2019

I was able to go to Iowa and walk our farmland, to meet our amazing farm manager who has been so helpful to us, and especially as I have dealt with my aunt’s change over these last months.  I could not have done it without him.   He took me to see the graves of my great, great, great grandparents, the Hammerand’s, and my grandmother’s baby sister buried right next to them.  William Hammerand, my great great grandfather, a blacksmith in town, was the one responsible for acquiring the farmland we now own, some of the best in Shelby County.

 

 

 

 

Our farm manager managed to have me hitch a ride on a combine with one of our farmers as they finished up the soy bean harvest.

 

After returning from Omaha on Thursday evening, and about 32 hours at home, it was back to the airport to head to Little Rock, Arkansas, where it all began for Marti and I, over 35 years ago.  Trinity Cathedral invited us back for their Heritage Sunday in which they celebrate important people from their past.   The two of us are so honored to be considered in that crowd.   In the late 80s we were the Youth Directors there.  It was a golden time.  We often had over 100 youth at a Sunday night event.  Many of our “youth’ are not much younger than us, but of course, back then, a few years seemed like a lot.   Here is a great picture of some of those youth that got to return for the event.

Trinity Heritage 2019

As I said, we were deeply honored and loved being back to see so many we love, and so reminisce about, and so many we miss.   Marti returned to Seattle as she had to actually start back to work!  I stayed and moved down to Hot Springs, Arkansas to spend a much needed week with my mother.   I also got to see my former boss and colleague at my last stint in hospital administration.  He lives in Hot Springs and he and I got to spend a few good hours together reminiscing.

The next weekend, Marti was scheduled to return for my nephew’s wedding in Little Rock, but she got pretty darn ill with either the Norovirus, or the flu and could not make the trip.   Austin, our son, was also supposed to come from New Orleans but a little storm named Olga had other plans and he too could not make it.  So I represented the family.   One of the nicest moments of the wedding for me was being asked, and even more being able!, to tie my other nephew, the Best Man’s tie!

Aaron tie

I returned on Sunday after a great 8 days with my mother, some wonderful long hikes in the National Park there,

 

 

 

 

and some great documentaries at the Hot Springs Documentary Festival, the longest running in the country.  One was called “The Objector” and is about a young 19 year old Israeli woman, a conscientious objector to her required military service there.  She, her brother and the producer were there.  Turns out the producer, Molly Stuart, the second one with the microphone from the left in this picture, had her Episcopalian grandparents there with her so that was like old home week, discussing all the people we knew.

theobjector 2019

Here is the trailer for this documentary, which is a compelling, and complicated, look into her choice.

I got to see two other films at this festival, One was “Bedlam: An Intimate Journey into our Mental Health Crisis” by producer and physician Kenneth Paul Rosenberg.  This documentary is scheduled to be shown on PBS in April.

Bedlam HS docu

Here is a trailer for Bedlam

And one final film, “Mossville: When Big Trees Fall” about one hold out in the midst of a petrochemical fuel corporate takeover of land and community in Louisiana.   If you can find this one, watch it!

Mossville HS docu.jpg

After two days at home, back to the airport, for our trip to Key West, and the Meeting of the Minds Music Festival there.  MOTM is basically a Jimmy Buffett Parrothead Convention that I have always wanted to attend.  This year we did, the whole thing, and it was a wonderful way to end this time, good warm weather, good music, time with my wife.  Jimmy didn’t actually show up but most of his band did and we especially loved having a front row seat to hear Mac MacAnally on Thursday night.

Mac 2019

We returned Monday night, and today I have one more day, Tuesday, before reporting for duty on Wednesday.

I cannot tell you the great blessing the time has been.  There is no way I could thank all of you who have allowed me to do it.  It is not a gift I receive lightly.  I also thank our amazing diocesan staff that kept it all going much better than when I am around.

So, I give you my sincere thanks with a picture of that final Key West sunset

Key West 2019

I have so much from this whirlwind still to settle in, to reflect upon.  As is my usual mode, I planned too much, but I don’t regret a thing, except perhaps just that, time to soak it in, to reflect.   As the pilgrimage that is life continues, I will be doing just that.  I am so blessed to be able to walk that road with so many of you.  The absolute final pic I send is one that hangs in one of our favorite restaurants in Key West.  I know nothing about it, but it always strikes me as being about blessing.  This time has been a blessing.   Being in ministry with all of you is a blessing too, one I am eager to return to.

Key West pic

Blessings,

+Greg