Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Winter Thaw

by Ann Cavera


Last year I was invited to join a remarkable group of women whose sole purpose is to get dressed up and go out to eat at a fancy restaurant when one of us has a birthday. That's right, a group whose only purpose is to celebrate life with a meal seven or eight times a year. We don't see much of one another between birthdays, but when we get together the conversation is lively in spite of the fact that all eight of us face serious challenges.

This month we went to Martha's* house for a Christmas party. Her husband is struggling with cancer and it's difficult for her to get away. She clearly delighted in decorating her house to the hilt and in cooking and making favors for each of us.

Susan came, even though it's difficult for her to get out in cold weather. She has been on the heart transplant waiting list for some time. Dorothy fell twice this year and we pray her broken foot will heal before the New Year begins.

Betty and her husband never had children and they will spend Christmas alone. She is quick to say they enjoy one another's company and count their blessings. A widow who deals with several chronic illnesses and another member experiencing marital difficulties came, too.

Janice walked in on her new knee replacements. After more than one surgery for cancer these past two years, I guess I qualify, too.

You might think this would have to be the saddest bunch of old ladies on earth. Quite the opposite is true and laughter is the most common sound among us. We spend little time talking about the hard things in our lives.

Perhaps surviving serious stuff up close and personal has given us a sense of freedom. Why not celebrate? What have we got to lose? None of us takes life for granted and we intend to enjoy every minute of this precious gift we've been given.

Terrible things happen. Two days ago, someone called the parish asking for a priest or deacon to come and comfort the mother of a young man who had been found dead of a drug overdose. Our pastor happened to be out of town, so Jim took the call. He prayed for the family and for the young man, offered words of comfort to the mother and came home wishing something could have been done to prevent this tragic loss.

Our individual lives may spin out of control, but circumstances can't dictate the climate of our hearts. Approaching a new year, we struggle, trying to make sense out of whatever the world has handed us. We walk on frozen ground, both literally and figuratively. Beneath our feet, the ice cracks, promising a thaw will come.

We stopped in three parking lots today and all three had patches of ice. Wind blew, people hurried in and out of doors, and most of them seemed to be in a good mood, in spite of a deep winter freeze.

The warmth of a smile, the patience of people waiting in lines, words of kindness instead of frustration, were like cracks in the ice allowing warmth from a deeper place to seep into our souls. When the river of life freezes over, there is still an undercurrent of joy when we know we are in this together and we know where the river is taking us.

*Note: I've changed the names of the women to protect their privacy.


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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.