Is It Any Wonder?

Friday, 12. October 2012 22:49 | Author:

Cole and I had dinner with a friend of ours last night. Our friend is an ex-priest who was in town to spend a day of prayer with some of his old friends of the cloth. Something in our conversation inspired him to run out to his car and grab the church bulletin he’d picked up from the sanctuary where they’d been praying.

He set it on the table in front of me without saying a word.

On the cover of the bulletin under one of those colorful and elegant holy card-like paintings of a medieval Naval battle scene presided over by the Virgin Mary, flowing robes billowing over her lofty plateau in the clouds of Heaven, was the following inspiring message.

The feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, formerly known as the

feast of Our Lady of Victory commemorates the Battle of Lepanto

which took place on Oct. 7, 1571. In this naval battle the forces of

Christian Europe defeated the navy of the Ottoman Turks thus

securing the control and safety of the Mediterranean Sea from the

Turks. The symbolic value of the battle commemorates the triumph

and security of Catholic Europe over the forces of the Turks

and Islam. Pope Pius V asked all of Christian Europe to begin a

novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her intercession prior to

the battle. All were asked to pray the Rosary to secure and save

Christian Europe from the Turks and Islam. Faithful to his promise,

the Pope initiated the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later renamed,

Our Lady of the Rosary to commemorate this decisive

Christian victory. Later the Pope dedicated the entire month of

October to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of

the Rosary. During This month Catholics are urged to pay special

devotion to the praying of the Rosary under this title.

When I finished reading and looked up at our friend, he asked, “What do you think?”

I’m afraid that I didn’t come up with an intelligible response right away (and probably still haven’t) because he commented later that I just kept repeating “Oh my God” over and over with a horrified expression on my face.

I was, indeed, horrified.

Is it any wonder that we are a nation of Islamophobes when the very institutions that are supposed to spread and teach peace and love are encouraging hatred and racism?

Is it any wonder that we have young men and women lining up to put on their suits of armor in a bloodthirsty and misguided eagerness to drop bombs on people in other lands, maiming and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent and beautiful men, women and children, when we have churches praying in honor of the victory of Christianity over Islam?

Is it any wonder that hate crimes against Muslims in the US are on the rise, innocent people being killed and called “terrorists” when we, who’ve invaded their home countries, kicked down their doors, tortured their fathers, and killed their children, with no justification except that blind devotion to the greed of our ”leaders”, should rightly be called the terrorists?

Is it any wonder that peace remains elusive and our war machine has taken to the skies with the most evil of weapons, the unmanned drone?

Is it any wonder that our Presidential candidates can’t mention lowering the “Defense” budget, even though we have hundreds of thousands of homeless in our cities’ streets, Iraq and Afghanistan “war” veterans committing suicide at an unprecedented rate, and people dying for lack of healthcare in our country?

Is it any wonder that so many Christians don’t know that “Allah” simply means God in Arabic and that Jesus was a great prophet in the Qur’an?

Is it any wonder that so many Americans forget that Christ walked the lands of the places we are so often desecrating?

Is it any wonder that so many of us have forgotten that Christ told us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, love our enemies, and see Him in “the least of these”?

Is it any wonder that so many of us have confused the Prince of Peace with the God of War?

Perhaps this piece, inserted into the bulletin, was just filling space, clipart that looked like a “history lesson”.  Perhaps the church leaders at that particular church hadn’t even seen what was put on the cover of their bulletin.  Perhaps…. and I hope that is the case.

But, we need to be cognizant of what we teach and what we say; and for what we pray.  The glorification of war is bad enough; the glorification of one religion’s victory over another seemed even worse to me.  Especially today when so many of us are so leery of the “other”, today when our media and our leaders can propagandize us into illegal wars with nonexistent causes, today when we are so easily led to fear.

Let us always work to teach, to talk, and to ACT for Peace.



- This is dedicated to my mother who, as she would say, would have “raised Cain”!




Category:Peace, Uncategorized | Comment (0)

Safe Haven in the Heartland

Saturday, 21. July 2012 1:00 | Author:


Hello Friends!  It’s time for me to share something that Cole and I have been working on for a place, a church, a community that is near and dear to our hearts.  Moving to Casper from LA was a major change for us but the very first week we were here we were blessed (Cole would say “lucky”) to find the United Church of Christ-Casper, a progressive social justice community that is active wherever people are in need or oppressed.  They work for peace, for justice, for the poor, for each of us.

Casper, Wyoming, the hometown of Matthew Shepard, is a far-right conservative and fundamentalist town, rural and isolated.  And one of UCC-Casper’s most vital roles is as a sanctuary, a haven, a welcoming home for the LGBT community here, especially for the youth.

But the little church is desperately needing financial help to continue in its work and to remain a potentially life-saving haven for LGBT youth.

Please watch the video and visit to learn more and donate if you can.  If you can’t donate yourself, please pass the site on to anyone who you think might be able to help.

Thank you!



Category:gay rights, LGBT, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ | Comment (0)

The Wisdom of the Homeless

Thursday, 21. June 2012 16:10 | Author:

I’d love to share in the wisdom of the homeless.  I’d love to hear what they think about some of the issues facing our country today.  Somehow I think that the homeless family with a sick child, or the homeless schizophrenic who can’t afford her medication, would have seen the wisdom in universal healthcare.  I think that the homeless vet suffering from PTSD would see the wisdom in stopping our war machine, ending torture, downing our drones, and ending the NDAA.  I think that the homeless elderly would surely see the wisdom in preserving Social Security and Medicare and that a tax on the mega-rich was justified when we have grandparents sleeping under overpasses.

Yes, I want to share in the wisdom of the homeless.

But unfortunately, they’re invisible to us.  We step over them on the sidewalk (trying hard not to look), we roll our car windows up when a dirty hand reaches out to us at a stoplight, we frown in disgust at the filthy rags and ratty possessions piled high in a rusting shopping cart.  We don’t want them in our neighborhoods, on our park benches, in our lives.

Definitive numbers are difficult to assess, but it’s generally agreed upon that we have well over half a million homeless people on any given night in this nation, possibly (and most likely), well over a million.

A MILLION people who we can’t SEE!  A MILLION people who we can’t HEAR!  A million people who are just like us, except for the fact that they have lost their homes.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents,friends.

When do they go from being John or Carlos or Angie, Mom, Sis or Grandpa, to simply being “that homeless person over there”?  When do they go from people whose opinions count to people who make us turn our heads away when they speak?

When will we learn that a large part of our country’s citizens spend their days looking for bits of forgotten food, crumbs of simple survival?  When will we learn that they can’t vote because they don’t have addresses, that being homeless means spending hours looking for a place to bathe or to sleep or to keep from being beaten or arrested, raped or tormented?

When will we learn that the homeless are people with names and unique life stories, people who went to schools and had jobs, were married, baked cakes, bore children, danced and sang, fought “for our country”, had heartaches and passions, wrote poetry and sculpted, swam and jumped, sewed dresses for proms, played guitars and pianos and drove fast cars?

When will we learn that they are not truly invisible, but that we are blind?

Yes, I wish I had the wisdom of the homeless.  If only I could see.


This post is dedicated to my friend Dennis Davis and his friend, Robin Nixon, who are not blind, but see clearly, as they work tirelessly to give the homeless their names and lives again. 

Thank you Dennis and Robin. 

Please support the G.O.A.L (Gift of a Life)
if you can.


Category:homeless, Uncategorized | Comments (2)

Father John Dear on his new book, “Lazarus, Come Forth”, the Necessity for Active Nonviolence, and an End to the Culture of Death

Thursday, 19. April 2012 6:06 | Author:

The heading on this post doesn’t do the video below justice.  And, honestly, if you want to skip this little intro of mine and go straight to the video, I wouldn’t blame you.  (So really, go ahead – it won’t hurt my feelings…. I promise!)   But if you’re still with me, I’d just like to mention that I find myself watching this video (or simply listening to it) again and again and the more I listen, the more I feel touched by the spirit of Christ’s nonviolence, by the gift of our shared humanity, and by the opportunity that we as inhabitants of this earth have been blessed with to offer our lives and our love to one another.

I saw Father John Dear speak at the United Church of Christ here in Casper last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the experience since.  His message of active nonviolence, the active nonviolence that Christ not only taught but lived, was so powerful, and delivered in such a positive, humorous, captivating, honest, humble and profoundly serious presentation was one of the most life-affecting talks I’ve ever heard.

In speaking to NMV groups about the injured children from Iraq, I’ve so often brought up the fact that these little Muslim children, these forgiving innocents, whose lives and families our country has so devastated by bombs, provide us with a most jarring and tangible reminder that we are one human family.  But, Father John reminds us of our shared humanity so powerfully that what should never have been possible for us to lose sight of but that we so easily and often do, becomes truly unforgettable and simply a natural part of our daily thought and our daily connection with one another.

If we are family, how can we kill or torture, bomb or bully?   How can we do anything but love?

So grateful for his sharing of his life and his words.  Thank you, Father John.


Category:John Dear, Peace, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy | Comment (0)

To Praise is to Act – Happy Easter!

Sunday, 8. April 2012 0:30 | Author:

Last Easter was the last time before she died that my mother was able to come to our apartment for dinner.  It was just Cole and me, Christie, John and mom and we had such a beautiful day.  Today, the day before Easter, 2012, mom is no longer with us physically, but will always be with us in spirit.  If she were still here today I know she’d be saying, “Annie, you haven’t been writing!  Easter is a perfect time to write something for your blog!”

So, here I go….. And I’m going to write what she, who truly saw Christ in everyone, would have wanted.

Easter, the time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, is a most joyous religious holiday.  Churches all over the world have to add chairs to their sanctuaries and anticipate “standing room only” crowds.  People love to come to church on Easter for the joy, the praise, the singing, and the celebration of the risen Christ!

And, it’s wonderful to praise Christ and love Him, of course.  But are we simply “praising” Christ with our voices or are we doing what He commanded?  Praising Him without doing as He asked seems like a hollow expression of one’s love.

Christ commanded us, not to praise Him and not to proselytize, but to love, without
exception.  Christ was a Jew.  He didn’t say “Love one another, well, other Jews,
I mean.”  Nor did He say, “Love one another, I mean Jews and Muslims since Muslims are my neighbors and consider me a great prophet.”   He obviously didn’t tell us to only love other Christians.  No.  He made NO exceptions.

We are to love one another no matter the race, religion, sexual orientation, no matter any erroneously-perceived “differences” or any, equally false, “bad guy” labels we’ve been propagandized to believe.

A pretty simple command it seems to me.

I mean, wouldn’t it be a lot more difficult if He’d have said, “Love one another, except for people with coffee-colored skin, long blonde hair, tattoos, or green eyes.”  That would have made things a little difficult.

But Christ in his infinite compassion, made it simple.  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34)

And he told His followers how to live!  He not only TOLD us, He showed us by his own example.

We are to feed the hungry, take care of the poor, house the homeless.  Basic stuff.
But do we do it?

We have politicians running for office in this country under the banner of “Christianity” who seem to have forgotten everything that Christ taught.  But as a politician, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to propose decisions that help, instead of hurt, people?

Our nation, however,  spends trillions of dollars on killing people instead of loving them.  Though we have over 3,000 nuclear warheads to our name, we threaten and put sanctions on Iran at the thought that they might one day be able to create ONE nuclear weapon!   We drop bombs on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, and it barely makes the news.  We’ve left Iraq in devastation.

We cut benefits for the poor instead of realizing that Christ considered those “benefits” simply basic human rights.   We have tens of thousands of people die each year in this country due to lack of healthcare.  We have  hundreds of thousands of
people living without food or shelter on the cold sidewalks of our city streets, and we consider voting for people who actually consider making cuts in Social Security and Medicare for our most needy and elderly!  (While proposing tax cuts for the
super-wealthy!)  It’s unconscionable.

And we’ve neglected Creation too!  We’ve polluted and used and, through our greed, are destroying God’s Creation instead of being its good stewards and caregivers.  We deny our negligence and pretend that we have no responsibility for
the Earth’s care.

This Easter, let us rejoice and praise Him!  But, most importantly, let us remember that the best way to praise Him is to act as He instructed.

Thank you, mom, for reminding me, and Happy Easter!



Category:Peace, Politics, Uncategorized | Comment (0)

“In Colorado, Romney shifts strategy towards values voters…”

Wednesday, 8. February 2012 5:19 | Author:

I hadn’t posted in my blog in awhile but was so excited to see the above headline on Yahoo News this evening that I had to write (even before reading the article)!  Finally, somebody is going to talk to us “values voters”!  It’s been a long time coming…..  I mean, how often do we hear the candidates talk about the hundreds of thousands of homeless on our cities’ streets, elderly, families, mentally ill, and veterans.  Finally, they won’t be invisible anymore; somebody is going to actually SEE them!

Oh, and those whose homes are being foreclosed upon; the future homeless!  Help is on the way!

Think of the tens of thousands in our country who die each year due to lack of proper healthcare!?  Those of us who no longer can afford health insurance should be very relieved to know that Romney is concerned about what to many of us “values voters” should simply be a basic human right.

Oh!  Won’t it be nice to hear the beating of the war drums being silenced?  As the only nation that’s ever actually used a nuclear weapon in combat, obliterating over 200,000 Japanese, mostly civilians, Romney obviously sees how crazy it is to threaten death and destruction to another nation’s families, just because the country ”might” someday acquire the same weaponry that WE already have?  Not, of course, in the NUMBERS that we do since it’s estimated we have over 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal – I doubt that it’s remotely possible for anyone to “catch up” and anyway, I’m sure Romney will be talking about nuclear disarmament too since he’s talking “values”.

Goes without saying, those nasty drones will have to land.  I was just reading this morning about a new report that claims that US drones are targeting Pakistani civilians who are going in to rescue survivors of our drone strikes!  Since Obama’s been in office our drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, over 60 of them children.  (Rings some bells regarding air strikes in Iraq and children without limbs…. but surely now we’ll have somebody talking about REALLY leaving Iraq and bringing all those contractors home!)

Oh, and that horrid thing about indefinitely detaining American citizens without trial in the National Defense Authorization Act - we “values voters” will be happy to hear somebody talking about turning that one around!

And, equality – I can’t wait to read what he says about taking care of one another and treating each other fairly – the immigrant, the poor (I knew he didn’t mean anything by that little comment about “not caring about the poor” – I mean, be REAL – no candidate in his/her right mind would say THAT – sheesh!), the gay community, women, everyone!  It’s just so exciting I can barely contain myself!  I’ve just got to read the article…

….Dang!  Something’s wrong with my computer; I saw something about abortion and gay marriage (and I’m sure he was misquoted), but I’ve got a computer glitch I guess cause the rest of the article seems to be missing; maybe somebody can send me the parts on values – like housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, not invading other people’s countries and killing their children, loving one another, that kindof thing?



Category:Peace, Uncategorized | Comments (1)


Friday, 28. October 2011 5:06 | Author:

My oldest brother Ronny and his wife Mary are having a Memorial Mass for my mother tomorrow in her childhood hometown of Park Ridge, Illinois.  Ronny, Mary, Maria, RJ, Annie, Nanci, Johnny Max and Katie, and my cousins, Aunts and friends who will be there, I will miss you so but am with you in spirit as you all know.  In honor of Mom’s memory, here’s a poem of hers I found while boxing up her papers.  I think she must have written this in high school or possibly, college.

I know that she is surely happy now “in unity with God.”



- Lucille Connor Oliver


Do you know what heaven is?

I think I know.

Heaven is a place

Where the good dreams go.


Heaven is a place

Where the things we want to be

And never quite achieve in life

Become reality.


Heaven is a place

Where the bored are full of zest

And where the tired and aching heart

Can find eternal rest.


Heaven is a place

Where desires find release

And where confused frustrations

Find a soft and gentle peace.


And there no bitter tears can fall

Nor pain can find a heart

And no one there lacks loved ones

And no lovers are apart.


And sorrow, not ourselves,

Is buried far beneath the sod.

And we are one in happiness

In unity with God.


Category:Uncategorized | Comments (1)

In Her Shoes by guest author Lindsay White

Thursday, 20. October 2011 2:47 | Author:

Rusul Jalal, left, enjoying her visit with guest author Lindsay White, right

There are some moments in life that change a person, like getting asked to prom, or passing the license test, or…meeting an Iraqi girl with one leg. Her name is Rusul and she is the bravest girl I know. At five years old, she lost one of her legs when an American bomb landed in her backyard. She had been playing outside with her brother and sister, just playing, when the bomb appeared out of nowhere and caught them by surprise. Rusul was the lucky one; her sister Salee lost both legs and her brother Akram did not make it out alive. Not long after the injury, Rusul and her father came to the United States so that she could get the prosthetics she needed. Salee had come the year before for double prostheses as both her legs were blown off above the knee.  Since my mother’s friend was working with the group No More Victims to help arrange for Rusul’s medical treatment, my family and I went all the way to South Carolina so that we could meet her.

We were at a children’s hospital. Her dark brown eyes focused on my face as I
stepped into the dimly lit room. I smiled at her, knowing she must be worried
about the surgery that was soon to come, and she smiled back shyly. She stood
close to her father, half-hidden behind him, using her crutches to support
herself. She seemed frightened, unsure of what to expect. It was a strange
feeling; no one had ever been scared of me before. I remember wondering what it
would be like to be in her shoes, going for help to the very country that hurt
her in the first place. It was the kind of thing I had read about in history
books or seen on television, not something that happened in real life. Or at
least, not something that should happen in real life.

When a woman who worked at the hospital suggested that Rusul show me to her toy
room, Rusul’s face lit up almost instantly and a sudden spark of confidence
emerged. Before I knew it, we were heading down a long, narrow hallway. As we
entered the room, Rusul immediately began showing me her toys, which I later
learned had been gifts from Americans around the country. She was proud of them
all, holding each one up for me to see.

Rusul seemed especially fond of a game that showed pictures of animals and read off
the English version of the name with the press of a button. She pointed eagerly
to a picture of a chubby, pink pig and looked at me. “Cow?” she asked. “No, no
that’s a pig,” I said, smiling. “Cow,” she said certainly, laughing, knowing it
was really a pig but trying to convince me otherwise. I laughed with her. It
amazed me that she was able to laugh so easily after all she had been through,
losing not only her leg, but her brother as well. It didn’t seem fair, that
this innocent girl had been hurt for no reason.

Meeting Rusul made me realize that we truly can change lives. No More Victims had been able to give Salee new legs, allowing her to be able to walk again, and now Rusul had a new foot. These miracles made me recognize that I could make a difference in other people’s lives, too.

From that point on, I realized that the things I’d cared about most had been so
trivial, like going to prom or getting my driver’s license. I knew that, like
my mom’s friend, I wanted to be able to help other people. For that reason, I joined
Key Club my junior year of high school and have done a great deal of community
service since then.

One of the most memorable community service events I took part in was a unified
sports game at my school. During this event, I taught elementary school
children, both with and without disabilities, how to bowl. It made me happy to
know that the kids really seemed to enjoy learning and that I had made a difference
in their lives by teaching them how to work together and help each other.

Some other community service experiences I’ve had include watching children on hay
rides while their parents were away, making masks and costumes for kids for
Halloween, working concession stands, and cleaning up after events. Ever since
I met Rusul, I realized how important it is to reach out to others and hope to
continue to do that in the future. There were so many things in my life that I had been taking for granted; meeting Rusul proved that. Maybe I had been wrong; maybe it truly was a cow in the picture.

Guest author, Lindsay White, is a senior at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut.  Lindsay met Rusul in 2008 when Rusul came from Iraq to the United States for amputation and prosthetic care.  Rusul is back home in a town outside of Fallujah, living with her parents and siblings, including sister Salee, who lost both legs in the airstrike that injured Rusul. 

I’m grateful to Lindsay for this beautiful addition to my blog.  To learn more about Rusul, please click here.


Category:Iraq, No More Victims, Rusul, Salee, Uncategorized | Comments (2)

Memories of Mom

Monday, 17. October 2011 4:22 | Author:

It’s three weeks today since my mother passed away, three weeks in which I’ve felt engulfed at times by a mix of emotions. 

- Guilt for things I’d said, done, hadn’t done, had thought, hadn’t thought, had tried or hadn’t.  Lots of guilt.

- Sadness, sometimes overwhelming, when I’d least expect it.  A look, a touch, a word from a friend could trigger it.  Or nothing at all could do the same.  The ring of my cell phone hasn’t stopped unsettling me as each time it rings I think it’s mom.

- Joy pops by unexpectedly with memories of her smile, her goodness, her crazy sweetness, and her always ready laugh.

- And there too is a sense of Peace that for now is fleeting but I know will become calming with time.

The following is what I wrote for my mother’s funeral, not really to be read, but just to give an idea of her as a person.  Our dear friend Blase Bonpane who officiated liked it so much that he read it in its entirety, and I wanted to share these memories of mom.

Lucille Helen Connor Oliver –

May 10, 1924 – September 25, 2011


  • Parents – Willis Joseph and Helen Marie Murphy Connor
  • Pre-Deceased Siblings:  Bobby, Mary Weiler, Paul Connor, Willis Connor
  • Survived by – Sister-  Phyllis Connor Reardon; Sons – Ron Oliver and wife Mary;  Jerry Oliver and wife Belinda;  John Oliver;  Ann Miller and her husband, Cole
  • 8 grandchildren – RJ, Maria, Annie, Nancie, Katie, John Maxwell, Wayne, and Christie

Mom was a lifelong writer; I don’t remember a time when she didn’t spend at least part of her day either sitting at her big roll-top desk with a typewriter in front of her, or of late, sitting in her recliner, laptop computer perched atop shaky knees.  She loved to write (probably why, as my brother Ronny reminds me, she was always correcting our grammar growing up!) and though she wrote a lot that was just fun, she did alot of serious writing too about the issues that were important to her.  She was published in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers over the years.

She put herself through the University of Arizona writing advertising copy, and was crowned “Desert Queen” in her time at the school.  She loved learning; wherever we
lived when I was growing up, she’d always find a local college and sign up for courses, and was especially interested in psychology.

By example, she’d show my three brothers and me how to sidewith the oppressed rather than the oppressor.  We knew when to boycott grapes and how to look for the UFW label on our lettuce.  We knew that it would be as stupid to judge someone by the color of his skin as it would be to judge him by the color of his eyes.  By her life and example, we knew that the most satisfying work in life was that which helped
others, whether the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the disabled, the sad, the lost or the lonely.  To do those things was, for her, as natural as breathing.

Throughout the years, she volunteered with more organizations and in more ways than I can ever begin to remember.  But she was active with Bread for the World,
wrote PR for the Red Cross and other non-profits, and was always working in
some way with those who needed help.  Of course, she would also promote No More Victims and Cole and my work with the Iraqi children. Even into her 80’s, she was volunteering with hospice, visiting shut-ins, and tutoring low-income schoolchildren.

Outraged and saddened by the death penalty, for almost 15 years she wrote to a young prisoner on death row with total compassion and entirely without judgment. They formed a close friendship through those years of correspondence, both caring for each other as real friends, until he was executed on July 1st, 2008.  He wrote to her shortly before his execution, worried about how she would take it and assuring her that he’d be okay. A sustaining faith in God had taken root and blossomed on death row.

When you ask someone about mom, one of the first words they’ll use to describe her is “positive” – she always saw the bright side, was always smiling and a spark of laughter was never far away (Cole can do her laugh PERFECTLY!)  But, she was
VERY aware of the world – writing letters to Congress, the newspapers, articles, etc, about our foreign and domestic policy, the dangers of capitalism and corporate control, and our government’s bi-partisan devotion to war.   Though she was well aware of the bad in the world, she chose to stress its goodness and the possibility of better things, the possibility that we could live the values we preach.  People will say that she always thought of the other person first, was much more interested in somebody else than in herself, and really cared when she asked how someone was doing. As my friend Selena recently wrote, “She was always giving – whether her time, her advice, or her support – she was the most positive person I’ve ever met.”

Though she had breast cancer twice before her final bout with bladder cancer, she never mentioned it.  Over the years, I’d often accompany her to the doctor and on numerous occasions when she was asked if she’d ever had surgeries or cancers, she’d say, “Oh no, nothing serious!” and I’d have to remind her about the breast cancer to which she’d say offhandedly, “Oh, THAT!”  Then they’d say “So it was relatively minor?” and I’d say, “She had a lumpectomy and a mastectomy” and they’d ask on which side and she’d invariably pat her chest to remind herself… eager to go onto more important topics…

Even with this recent cancer, most of the people she lived with in her assisted living didn’t even know she was sick.  One man said to us on the day she died that he had no idea she was even sick, that he’d always complained about his aches and pains and she’d acted like they were so much more severe than anything she had.  I was sitting in the hallway outside my mother’s door shortly after she passed on, getting ready to call one of my brothers, when one of the kitchen workers came out of the elevator with meal trays to deliver to residents.   She looked at me and said, “So, how’s Ms. Lu?” and I said, “She’s gone”, and she replied, “Where?” and Cole coming out of mom’s room said, “No, she’s passed on” and the woman looking shocked and stricken said, with a faint hope in her voice, ”You mean she’s sleeping, right?”  I said, “No, she’s dead” and she immediately started sobbing and turned away.

The woman who came to help her bathe during the week grew very close to my mother.  They would talk and talk about Lavender’s life back home in Sierra Leone, how she’d come to the United States, how her kids were doing in school, what they planned for the future. The illness mom had is usually very painful. One day a new hospice nurse came to see mom after she’d experienced some serious break out pain. Her illness had dramatically worsened that week, and she had difficulty speaking.  Lavender showed up at the same time, and when the nurse asked whether  mom had any pain, Lavender piped up with “No, Lu never has any pain!”  I had to gently correct Lavender and tell the nurse that “Yes, she has pain.  She takes pain medications round the clock every day.” Lavender had seen my mother for six months, three times a week, and she’d never mentioned having any pain.  She had been happy simply in learning about Lavender’s world and growing with her in friendship.

Mom was always interested in how the other person was doing.  The wonderful people who cared for her in her last years at Bethany Towers could tell you this.  She wound up knowing a lot about their lives because she was interested in them and truly loved them.  She always knew when someone had an important
test coming up and she’d encourage them to work hard and have confidence in
themselves. She knew who had a sick child or whether the spouse liked his or
her job.  She knew hobbies and interests, passions and concerns.  She was as curious as she was compassionate; even up to the last couple of days when she could still speak, she’d worry that one caregiver would pass her nursing exam, that another would get over her cold, and that another’s husband would be able to find a job soon.

Her last weeks and months were brightened by phone calls and visits from those she loved, friends from far away, her nieces and nephews, her sister Phyl, my brothers and her grandchildren.  She’d always garner her strength for these phone calls and I’d generally get an e-mail from a cousin or someone far away after a call saying, “Annie, are you sure your mom’s really sick?”  On Friday, after not having been able to speak for at least 24 hours, her sister called and mom summoned up a weak “hi” for her – it was to be her last word but she couldn’t let her baby sister, who she’d so worried about being the last living sibling and alone, not hear her voice one last time.

When she could no longer talk, we still got a couple of smiles, and Cole said that those smiles for us in the midst of her suffering were the loveliest visions he’d ever seen.

She was a wonderful mother and she loved her children, my brother Ronny and his sweet wife Mary, my brother Jerry and his wife Belinda, my brother John, and Cole and me.  She loved her grandchildren and was so proud of each of them.  I don’t think any one of her children or grandchildren, her dear friends, her neices and nephews, sisters or brothers, ever doubted her love for us.

Years ago she’d had an episode on the operating table when she’d been gone for several minutes so she knew that the journey would be one of pure love and cherished the thought of that journey again.  But she loved life with an energy and passion that few could imagine her feeling at 87 and in her condition; she wanted so much to stay and finish her latest book and just LIVE – she held out hope that this latest set-back was “just a cold” even until she could barely speak.

She told Cole and me one day that she wasn’t afraid to die; she’d miss us but she’d see us all again soon.  She loved the blessing of life and I know that today she is enjoying her continuing journey and its even greater blessings.




Category:Lucille Connor Oliver, Uncategorized | Comments (3)

Hope “Occupies” the Nation!

Friday, 7. October 2011 1:20 | Author:

Cole and I just got home from an afternoon at Occupy LA.  I so wish my mother had lived a couple more weeks just to see what’s happening in our country – the occupations of our cities, the HOPE that’s coming, not from a politician or political party, but from the only place where it ever could – we, the people!  She’d have been so happy to see people finally waking from their slumber and speaking out for the people of this country, not the corporations (and no, I’m sorry corporations, you simply aren’t people) - speaking out for the 99% of us who aren’t the super-wealthy, those who’ve lost their jobs, who are sleeping in the streets, who don’t have healthcare, who have parents surviving on medicare and social security, for the students who studied hard for their degrees only to enter a workforce without jobs and no way to pay back crippling student loans, and for those of our young men and women who are being sent off to kill people in other countries and risk being killed themselves.  WE are the 99% and we are unified.

I am so happy and hopeful!  The media’s portrayal of the protestors as being unfocused or unaware is absolutely inaccurate (big surprise).  We spoke to young people, (and the people we saw were overwhelmingly young),  who talked about working hard for their college educations and then not being able to find jobs to pay off their hefty student loans, to a young man whose parents had sacrificed for years to give him a happy childhood and send him to school and who now needed healthcare that they couldn’t afford.  We talked to Vietnam vets, encouraged by the youth who are trying to bring our war dollars home to the people of this nation.

And we saw just blocks away, the homeless lining the streets, sleeping on cardboard, suffering and starving.

I’m hopeful for them, and for each of us.  We’ve woken up.


Category:Occupy LA, Occupy Wall Street, Uncategorized | Comment (0)