"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, June 18, 2011

TONY and MARGOT: See you yesterday!

[On his way home from Japan, my nephew Tony stopped in Houston to see his half-sister, my niece Margot.  Margot Gayle Backus, English professor at the University of Houston, never had an opportunity to meet Mum but they share a lot in their perspectives on life and Mum would have loved her. This is Margot's birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARGOT!]

Dear all,

I had a great time with Tony yesterday evening and this morning — [daughter] Jerilyn and I picked him up from his flight and then the three of us and [husband] Steve went out to dinner while Tony filled us in not only with information about the ceremony but especially with his excitement and the depth of awe and sorrow and respect and amazement he felt as he stood in relation to the enormity of the Hiroshima bombing, and the role that Barbara played in the lives of its victims. 

It was deeply moving to me to have had the chance to receive not just a description of what Tony experienced in Hiroshima, but especially a feeling for how much Barbara meant to the people of Hiroshima, something that mere words or pictures could not have conveyed, but that hearing and being present to Tony as he spoke of his interactions with individual people really allowed me to take in. 

Tony brought Jerilyn a beautiful fan and a crane folding kit, and she is thrilled with both; he and Jessica gave me an incredible NO MORE HIROSHIMAS t-shirt that I will treasure forever — a perfect gift – and also some phoenix tree seeds, seeds from the trees that were the first to re-grow in the area of the blast, far, far sooner than the scientists predicted anything could. I am going to have to give careful thought to where and when we plant them, as just because this species of plant can survive the aftermath of a nuclear blast does not quite fully reassure me that they can survive my utter lack of horticultural aptitude.

It is a gift beyond reckoning to have been touched so deeply by Barbara’s extraordinary goodness — I do feel truly touched by grace, just to have had this brush with her goodness. I know that she would not have related to the term, but I think that the Buddhist term bodhisatva is very like the Catholic idea of a saint, and I have sometimes used the latter when trying to explain to someone who Barbara was and what she did, but after having had this experience with her continuing waves of effect in the world, somehow bodhisatva seems to describe best how I am experiencing her, probably because I personally associate sainthood more with dour suffering and bodhisatvahood more with compassion and joy. I guess I'm trying to share my own experience of Barbara but to make clear that I’m not trying to prompt a theological debate, which I think would be quite antipathetic to the powerful, joyous mystery I sense in Barbara’s life and work.

With much love,

See His Scribe, August 24, 2010: Bodhisattva Barbara

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful letter....I was blessed by reading it!