Friday, January 2, 2015

Come Inside


 Come Inside    

I lost my  loving sister three weeks ago and I ask you to let me share the loss. I was blessed to have Kiki here with my son Tom and me at our home for the last five months of her life with the finest Hospice care attainable. We were oh so close right up to her passing.

Not to be disturbingly pious nor preachy, but it was our greatest support to focus on Jesus’ first spoken words as recorded in the earliest written of the four gospels, Mark, when from his lips we read: “Metanoiete”(i.e., Change the way you think), the present moment is the right time, and the Kingdom of God is within you; believe THIS ‘good news’.”

Most of us spend our days focused on all outside us and as we seek for a sign of God there, we’re disappointed. It is like an old Desert Father story from long ago where a man is on his hands and knees in the yard outside his home apparently searching for something. When his neighbour looks over and sees him, he calls out, “What are you looking for?”
       “I lost my keys,” he replied. The neighbour asked, “Can I help?”
        “Oh, thank you,” the man replied, and the two of them searched for a long time.
        Finally, as the sun was getting very hot, the neighbour asked, “Do you remember where you  had the keys last?”
        “Oh, yes, it was in my house.”
        “So why are we looking here?” the neighbour asked.
         “Oh, the light is so much better out here” the man replied.
We all spend our entire lives looking for happiness, rewards, pleasures outside of us where it is not to be found. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us, and that is “where” we go with passing.

This is not a reality we are asked to see, hear, touch, smell or feel; or to imagine; nor to understand through thought, but rather to BELIEVE because the one asking us to believe it is trustworthy. To focus on believing this truth every minute of every day of our lives, and to pray interiorly is the answer to dealing with our grief and our loss. To believe that this inconceivable God is closer to us now than we are to ourselves, IS the answer. We can’t wait for nor expect a “sign” or a “proof” before believing, we are asked to believe in order to understand. God bless you.

                               [Eulogy given at Kiki's Funeral, Mass, Dec 13, 2014                                     

                            Catherine Ann McNamee
                        July 8, 1931 -December 7, 2014

 I am Kiki’s little brother, Bing.  Kiki asked me personally to say a few words to you, her loved ones and dear friends, on this day. She obviously wishes to punish me for being the supposed “favorite”, all these years.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to Kiki’s tiny home in Falmouth. I’ve known other homes which were more spacious, more elegant , much more expensive; but I’ve never been in a home so loved, so tidy and clean, so much a piece of heaven for its occupant.  Kiki loved her home, and lived there by a kind of Braille for the last few years of her life. It was like having Helen Keller for a sister. And to be greeted by Kiki as you entered her space was to have experienced a warm, welcoming host for an enjoyable visit. Kiki loved seeing and hearing from her friends.

My earliest memory of my sister was of her being in the hospital for a long time for something called “mastoids”. She also had poor eyesight early on, and when I was in third grade she was undergoing eye surgery for detached retinas. In those days, there was no such thing as lasers, and repairing the retina involved sewing the retina back into place, and requiring the patient to lie on her back for weeks and then wear black cover plates over both eyes with tiny pinholes to peer through for another four weeks. I never heard her complain through it all, although I wasn’t paying too much attention to her, my Mother did all that.

Kiki, through those years, began to develop a way of behaving which I thought was a defense about her eye problems. She told everybody she was so happy to “see” them, and she really was.   She developed friendships with her girlfriends and classmates which have lasted all these years. Her positivity was evident to all who knew her. Every summer our Dad would rent a humble tiny cottage at Dennisport  for $30/month for three months. Kiki would invite all her friends down even though the cottage had no interior doors (just three curtains), no running water, just a old crankhandle pump and an outhouse for a toilet. But we were very happy there.

Kiki  had very  close and lifelong friendships with many and she has asked me specifically to tell them how much she appreciated and valued these friendships every day of her life right up to today. Her good friends included Alice DiRienzo, Arlene Rose, Elizabeth Gleichauf, and her helpful neighbor Regina Wagner. She cherished her special god-daughter Bonnie Cartwright O’Connell, and her weekly chats with Meryl Yanoff.  Most especially she asked me to note how special it has been for her “core group” of friends from girlhood to stay close all these years:  Margaret Doucette, Lizzie McNeil, Gloria Bianchini, Adrienne Curran, Connie Hurney, and Olga Zaruba should probably own AT&T from all the regular phone conversations and visits with Kiki over the past 75 years. To this day I have no idea what they found to talk about, but the conversation is ongoing, only today it begins a new phase, in prayer.

Kiki was especially dedicated to her work at her beloved Norfolk County Agricultural School and with  its students, faculty, staff and administrators, especially Dick Morse.

In 1963 Kiki purchased her tiny home one block from the beach at Falmouth Heights with a clear view of Martha’s Vineyard.  The “cutest cottage in the Heights” became her haven.  She summered there and delighted in the Cape Cod spirit, before retiring to Falmouth and becoming a year-rounder after our Mom’s death in 1996.   With her friend and companion, Sumner Ashley, she began to want to be involved in the neighborhood community and did so as a secretary for the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Improvement Association and volunteer with the Ashumet Conservation Commission. 

In the years after I left the monastery, Kiki would always caution me about preaching too much, especially when my interests turned to Zen meditation. She would always say, “You preach about Zen, but I practice it.” And she was right.
Kiki was and continues to be centered and an excellent listener.

In 1970 Kiki had the joy of becoming God-mother to our Tommy, and eventually  the most loving Auntie to Grace, Claire Zoe and to Chuck.  More recently she ascended to the higher love of grand-neice Ava, and grand nephews Alden and little Charlie.

In her last years, Kiki became a scholar by “reading” thousands of books for the blind, provided on tape by the Perkins Institute.  She poked and felt her way around her home as adroitly as a Wallenda on the high wire, and God help me if I left a chair slightly out of place upon leaving.

Everybody in life is looking for happiness. Most of us spend  our lives looking for it in the wrong place. An ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tzu, once wrote:  “You never find happiness, until you stop looking for it.” These words seem very strange and even opposed to  the promise of our fundamental right to the Pursuit of Happiness. The Christian parallel to this saying may be found in the very first words attributed to Jesus in the earliest written of the four gospels, the gospel of Mark which has Jesus beginning his public ministry with the words:
          “Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good news    from God and saying, ‘The right time is now, change the       way you think, for the Kingdom of God is within you;    believe this good news’”

The truth that God dwells within each one of us is impossible to get one’s mind around. You can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell it, you can’t imagine it nor even think about it, but you can believe it,  if you believe the person proclaiming it.

Kiki had a very difficult last few months. Through it all she maintained a tight fisted  control of her life. When the time came she accepted God’s will and was so grateful for the round-the clock care given her by incredible Tommy, her Doctors and Nurses at Brigham & Womens’ and Dana Farber, and the visiting nurses of South Shore and South Shore Hospice Care under the direction of Doctor Jim Everett.  May God bless them all.

Kiki, whom we pray is in the heavenly presence of God, now knows , and needs belief no more, she “sees” perfectly.  

Kiki didn’t preach to anybody, she just lived what she believed; and she learned to do it in the presence of you, her many friends.  In her love for her family and friends, she gave everything she had been given. May God bless her and keep her in an eternity of love.  May you rest in peace, dear Kik, with our Mom and Dad, Aunties and Uncles, Grampas and Nannies, and all the saints and in the loving presence of the Lord.  Thank you all.

“Stop preaching” she just said.