Five years ago today, the DGs (dual gimpy and grumpy) were basking in the glow of the wonderful celebratory wedding nuptials of son John to Julie Brown. It elicited almost a week’s worth of posts on the old gulker.com, starting with the day after and onward: Aug. 8, Aug. 9, Aug. 10, Aug. 11. In October, they took what was the female DG’s first trip to Asia, visiting both Shanghai and Hangzhou, where the male DG took one of his most evocative images.
Almost exactly a year to the day after their Asia adventure began a new – and in every way – different adventure. One day you wake up, go to work, an “incident” occurs that lands you in the emergency room, and you know you are in trouble when they call in a neurologist who tells you as gently as possible, “There’s a mass in your brain.”
A few weeks later, a biopsy performed at UCSF confirmed a grim diagnosis, anaplastic astrocyloma (grade 3 glioma), inoperable (due to its location) but treatable. So they learned the male DG was going to die and they began their step by slow step-by-step acceptance of that journey. A final chapter began a month ago when he learned that additional tumors had now appeared.
Tonight at dinner they talked about knowing you’re going to die. It’s a cliché that we all know we will die – and the older one gets the more this reality sinks in. Some of us know we’re going to die much sooner than later; that’s the reality the DGs live with today – months not years left in the male DG’s life.
All of this preamble leads to the gist of the post: Five years ago today Brother Roger, even though a frail elderly man, woke up not knowing he was going to die soon. But the dagger of a deranged woman took his life during one of the thrice daily services at the Church of the Reconciliation in Taizé. He had arrived in Taizé on August 20, 1940, where he was to harbor Jews from the Nazis and the French puppet government during World War II – and where his idea of founding an ecumencial Christian community came to fruition.
Taizé has been a special gift that the DGs have shared four times since his diagnosis, three out of the four years in the presence of old friends (David and Ricki) and this year in the company of Bay Area friends (Marty and David, Sara and Peter) and brand new friends (Sue and Cees).
Explains the Taizé newsletter received in the female DG’s inbox today: “Since he did not want there to be too much speech in churches, the Taizé Community marked the double anniversary – 70 years of its founding and five years of the founder’s death – primarily by holding a simple pilgrimage on the evening of Saturday, August 14…Current prior Brother Alois said the prayer that follows – and these were the only words spoken:
“He sought earnestly to live in your trust and to express your infinite kindness for every human being, whether a believer or a nonbeliever—you, the living God, who do not condemn, who exclude no one from your love.
“In this trust, you enabled him to find the source of joy and peace: peace of heart that made him a creator of peace among humans.
“Like John the Baptist, he only wanted to prepare the way of your Christ, to reunite your people and to tell everyone, ‘God is close to you.’
“Turning to you, God of love, and being close to the poorest were inseparable for him. To relieve suffering, to welcome, to welcome young people in particular, to listen so as to understand all of others: that was the path you opened for him in order to follow Christ Jesus and to be attentive to the Holy Spirit.
“He loved your Church that gathers believers in one communion beyond all boundaries— political, social or cultural. It was for him the sign of hope of a reconciled humanity.
“We thank you for being able to remember him with the whole Church. The words of Pope Benedict go straight to our heart when he wrote, ‘May his witness to an ecumenism of holiness inspire us in our march towards unity.’ The Patriarchs of Constantinople and Moscow, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lutheran and Reformed leaders, and many others, join us to express our gratitude.
“Enable us all to continue with all our heart what Brother Roger began. Like him, we would like to live in friendship with Christ, putting into practice, without waiting, even just a single word of the Gospel.
“In the communion of the whole Church throughout the world, and with those who went before us in faith, beginning with the apostles and Mary, we praise you and we sing:
“‘Jesus Christ, Inner Light, do not let my darkness speak to me. Jesus Christ, Inner Light, make me able to welcome your love.'”
Looking at the photos the DGs knew exactly where the Brothers (in white robes) gathered on Saturday and felt just a little part of the gathering even though far away…
Photos courtesy of Taizé Community