Thought for the week
The Summer of ’69
She was broken-hearted, she told me through her sobbing; the worst was facing life without him – her husband and companion of nearly forty years. I had said his funeral Mass only two weeks before. Her distress was tangible: I did not doubt one word she said.
‘Tell me about him, your husband,’ I said. ‘It might help.’
They met at the Robert Emmet Pub on 8th Avenue. Midtown they call it in New York. He was a civil engineering student on a J1 visa working on a summer job up in the Bronx; she was an airline stewardess and was on a respite before the next transatlantic flight. In that August of 1969, Richard Milhous Nixon was President.
During that summer, they went to see Midnight Cowboy, strolled through Central Park, went to plays on Broadway and took the ferry to Staten Island. They were married three years later.
‘And now’ she said turning to a black and white wedding photo on the round table of her sitting room, ‘he is gone and I’m lost.’
I have heard many stories of distress in my time: this was one of the most painful. Would she have a breakdown or fall into depression or turn to the demon drink?
She was no better for months. Then she went to a counsellor who walked with her through the valley of darkness. A year or so later, I came across her in the supermarket and couldn’t believe the change. She had emerged from a dark place.
That woman confirmed a lesson I’d picket up many times before: we are much stronger than we realize. With courage and guidance we can face most ruptures to our lives. Each one of us possesses the spark of the divine which seems to me the theme of today’s Mass. ‘The only tragedy in life,’ said George Orwell, ‘is loss of heart.’ Fr William