Father Simeon Daly, OSB - Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and other Musings of an Aged Monk


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   Daffodils in Spring
   Farewell
   In Time of Distress
   Karen's Story
   Medieval Manuscript
   Ode to a Mosquito
   Old Blue Goes to Col...
   On Doing Damage
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Karen's Story
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I was coming from I know not where, when I met Karen. Actually, I can hardly say I met her. She was an airline stewardess, and she stopped at my aisle seat to talk about the book I was reading. It was as simple as that.

I was reading Goddenís In the House of Bred, a novel about a Benedictine community of nuns in England. The book was well written and incidents authentically portrayed. The book had been publicized by a recent TV production of the story. Karen had seen the program. She asked about the book. When I assured her that the book was well written and that the play had followed it closely, she left me saying she was going to try to get a copy and read it.

I am a Roman Catholic priest. She could tell by my clothes I was a priest. She figured I might know something of nuns and convents. She could hardly know I was a monk of many years, familiar with community living so dramatically portrayed in the book. How could she have known that I was also a librarian for some 25 years that day when she knelt by my side to talk about the book? The two or three meís within my head and heart began a rather heated discussion on whether I should just continue my reading as if no intrusion had been made in my life, or whether this was a moment of grace. Should I offer to get her a copy, indeed to lend her the one I was reading.

I wonít bore you with the details of the argument. In the end I waited until all had left the plane. Gave her the book with my name and address in the back pocket. I asked her to return the book when she had finished reading it. The way her face lighted up was worth the airfareóround trip, and a very special grace.

After a month or so passed without hearing from her, I resigned myself to a lost book. But then, shortly after, back it came, and like bread on the waters, two more she sent along as gifts. One was All Things Great & Small by James Herriot, which introduced me to that gifted writer and began what eventually became a series by him, on our library shelves. Her letter was charming. She had enjoyed the book. She went on to tell me about herself and her zest for life, beginning a casual correspondence that continued for the next couple years.

I always watched for her when I took the Delta Flights. In vain did search for her recognizing smile. I never saw her again.

On one occasion I was to be on about five Delta flights in a two or three week period. I wrote my full schedules, including lay overs in Atlanta. I had hoped we might have coffee and talk. I watched eagerly. Wasnít really sure Iíd recognize her face unless she came up to me. I talked about her throughout my trips. I told family and friends I was hoping to meet again, the young lady who had knelt by my side and had spoken with such joy of her intent to read a story about women of faith.

On returning home, I found a letter to me from her mother. It should have been edged in black. She thanked me for my interest in Karen, and then went on in some detail to explain the struggle with depression Karen had suffered in recent months. She lost the struggle and took her life. Karen was gone. Her mother pleaded with me to continue to be considerate to other motherís daughters, the ladies who help us fly the skies, but who may not as yet have their feet on the ground. She thanked me for the personal attention I had given Karen.

Later, sleepless, in the quiet early morning hours I penned this lament for Karen.

Gone now.
Whither? Why?

Who stole the light from Karenís eye? What secret hand sealed the smile so sweet to me? Who blew in her ear The cloud

That hid the SUN from her inner view?
Did some silent prick leave poison
       Festering unto death
       In the folds of her sweet flesh?

What waste that her fragrant womb
       Will never bloom
       Another like to her.

So young, so beautiful, my Karen,
       And yet so burdened
       By lifeís mysteries!

Could you not have borne the latter
       For the former delights?

O Karen, dear, what have you solved?
       What has this snuffing out resolved?

There are mysteries still
And pain the more for your passing.

Perhaps saddest of alló
       Had you but known
       The long list of those who grieve your passing,
       You would be with us still.

Kind words unspoken,
Warm embrace not given,
Love left unexpressed
       May well have left less unnatural
       The unnatural deed
By which we lost sweet Karen.
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