Share These Stories of Resilience, Now
THEN, PLEASE MEET THE AUTHOR IN SEPTEMBER
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lucille Sider already has inspired readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma, every week in neighborhoods everywhere. This weekly series of columns began on August 23 with a first story, The Perfect House. This second column builds on that first one. Please, share these column with friends via email or social media (or print out a copy to share using the convenient “print friendly” button at the end of the story). Then, if you are interested in taking part in Lucille Sider’s online conversation with readers in September 2021, please look at the information at the end of this story.
‘All Manner of Things Shall Be Well’
By LUCILLE SIDER
Author and Contributing Columnist
For two years my perfect house brought deep joy.
Visitors poured in. That first summer I invited my nieces for a week-end. Two came from Ontario, Canada, and two from Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania nieces brought beautiful toddler boys and we all loved watching them splash by the fountain.
We had a lot of fun and a lot of deep sharing. Four of us had been sexually abused by my brother-in-law, Edmond. The niece who was not abused just shook her head appalled but grateful that he had not reached her. We prayed together and felt so upheld by each other.
My son and his wife came from Washington, DC, and that first Christmas opening gifts in the living room in front of the fireplace was heaven. My cat PJ was on every lap taking in all the love he could find. He had been a gift from my son and daughter-in-law when I moved into the house.
My brother and his wife who had master-minded the rebuilding after a major flood came to visit and always helped with some house project. And always, we went to Lowe’s and found just what we needed.
I loved to show off my garden, especially to my female friends from church. While we were playing croquet in my back yard, I delighted in showing them the flowers: azaleas, petunias, geraniums, impatiens and on and on.
In fact, that first year I could not bear to let my flowers die so I just started potting them and carrying them into my house. Every window was dressed with the flowers. I later counted and found that I had 91 plants in the house.
I also had a plant infirmary where I could give them extra TLC with a large grow light. That year I had countless tea parties in my beautiful living room garden.
I was enjoying all of my relationships with family and long-time friends. One of those friends was Frank, who I had met in our 30s when he was the pastor of a church in Chicago and I was the church’s pastoral counselor. We formed a small spirituality group with some other friends and we remained in touch even as we found ourselves moving around the country.
My friend Frank had by this time moved to Pennsylvania from Chicago. Now we were only three hours away from each other and we were back and forth often. He loved to sit on my deck surrounded by flowers. That first fall I had 15 mums and, coupled with my water fountain, the setting was idyllic. We chatted and we meditated as we do when we’re together.
Frank had started a meditation group in Pennsylvania and I was always invited to participate. I went as often as possible. The time that affected me most profoundly was when the group was meditating silently in a creek.
I’ll never forget that day. The weather was perfect. About 75 degrees with a slight wind. Birds were singing their hearts out and the little fish seemed so happy as they swam around me.
I was truly struggling at that point because of some concerns that had arisen in my family. For a while I could find no peace. But after about 20 minutes, my worries just seemed to float away in the ripples of water.
Simple phrases ran through my mind and eased my soul: “Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. “
When the meditation was over, I told Frank about my experience.
“All shall be well,” he said, telling me that he was drawing on Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic whose book, Revelations of Divine Love, has become popular once again.
Her famous verse was: “All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”
On the way home I repeated over and over again the words that spoke so deeply to me: Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. All is well.
The next day I composed a simple tune and wrote it down. I called Frank and sang it to him.
“Absolutely wonderful,” he said.
I have been singing that little chant ever since. And both Frank and I have taught it to many people.
Life seemed perfect for a long time, even after the drawn-out trauma of the flood, but eventually I began to feel lonely. I longed to have a house mate. The days when darkness started to descend at 4 pm became frightening.
I was in psychotherapy and of course I discussed my loneliness with my therapist. We scoured our minds for people I might invite to live with me. I was open to having either a woman or a man. My friend Frank was back in Chicago by this time. But we kept very close contact.
We chatted about living in the same retirement home someday. Frank would organize hymn sings. He would play the piano and I would lead the singing. My parents had done this in later years and I so admired it.
“Doing all of that with Frank would be perfect,” I said to my therapist, “If only I could find someone like Frank.”
My therapist immediately replied, “He is one in a million.”
So I left the office discouraged, thinking I would never find a friend like Frank. But on my way home this thought came to me: If he is one in a million, you better go and live near him. When I got home, I immediately called him and he responded, “I would love to have you come to Chicago. We can get you an apartment in my building.”
I had lived and worked in Chicago for 26 years so it felt like this would be a homecoming of sorts. I discussed this with my son, my bother and many friends. We all worried that I would miss my beautiful home in Binghamton so much that I could not adjust again to city life.
So what I decided to do was rent my house for a year. Then I could come back if that felt right. During that year I missed my gardens a great deal—both my outside garden and inside garden. But when the feelings were intense all I had to do was sing, “Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. All is well.”
My apartment in Chicago was in the same building as Frank’s. It had huge windows with a southern exposure and immediately I started filling those windows with plants. I mean—lots of plants. About 60 in all. Frank and I began to meditate together twice a day. We ate meals together at least once a day. We started a meditation group with six other people and they became so foundational to my spirituality and later to our friendship. My beloved friend Alyce lived in the city and we spent such wonderful times together. At times I had doubts about selling my house. Of course I would take these to my therapist. But what guided me more than anything was the chant.
“Let it come, let it go, Let if come, let it flow, All is well.”
I later came to realize that the earlier poem I composed about my house has the same theme. It is about letting go and daring to trust in God. The last three stanzas have spoken to me so deeply:
Please give me the grace
To own my house
But not let it own me.
To love my house
But hold it loosely.
Please give me the grace
To hold lightly
Any place or person
Any thought or feeling.
Oh Lord, please give me the grace
To open my heart
To your abounding love
And abiding rest
And be free!
Please bless my house.
Look for the next part in Lucille’s series fin our September 6, 2021, issue of ReadTheSpirit magazine.
Care to take part in Lucille’s September 2021 Zoom?
Just click on this image from Lucille’s Zoom poster, below, and you will see a full PDF of this handbill, which you can download, print, share with friends or post where friends will see it.