Homily for Paddy Blackman: An honor to be asked and a challenge to deliver.
"On my retirement page Patty quoted one of my favorite lines, “To be continued.” I now continue as she requested.
There are many facets to Patty’s life. She is a special person, a Wise woman, committed to family and community, adventurous in running and hiking, deeply relational and Faith oriented in her writing and friendships.
Running Home: An Across Iowa Journal, a book she and Jennifer Figge wrote when they made their run across Iowa provides us with some insights.
On the first day, the introduction to her inward journey, she wrote, “Immediately I felt and began thinking about the whole idea of journey, a pilgrimage. The story of the journey is part of every cultures mythology and the journey seemed like life itself.” She joins Abraham in the Book of Genesis, who left Ur, leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar, traveling in stages in the Negev. She and Jennifer, going across Iowa from Council Bluffs to Muscatine, journaling as they went, traveling in stages.
Earlier in the 1980’s Patty made another kind of journey when she took the Befriender training in story listening. She served as a Befriender for ten years, visiting one morning a week beginning with the chapel service,. All were required to debrief before leaving the hospital. During a debriefing after a long visit with a dying patient Paddy said she wished she had known where to refer her. I said I am glad you didn’t know. You would have interrupted her story. Not knowing as knowing is a paradox. She said but my mother stressed knowing. I said today you left home. You let her complete her story and that was good. We will refer to Social Service.
Knowing was important to Paddy. “I need to know” and “I needed to know” appear twice in the short reflection on the first day of paddy’s Journal within. Then she knows, Journaling is a way of knowing.
Paddy was part of a writer’s group for many years and in 2012 I needed her to edit some of my writings. After retiring I facilitated a distance learning seminar for the Wayne Oates Institute on the Healing Power of Story Listening.
I wanted to make a video of my seminar. As an English major she understood our focus on the way metaphors function in story listening. She read my papers previously prepared for the distance learning seminar. At our next meeting she said, “you can’t use these.” That was Patty. Straight forward. “You have footnotes, and you are the footnote. Start with your best stories and use a creative writing style.” That was like starting from the beginning, it was my run across Iowa. Five months later the Healing Power of Story Listening workshop was videotaped in April of 2013. Patty knew what I needed to do.
We all have our stories of knowing Paddy, Those in the family. Those in the community, Review and share your stories more than once. They are part of connecting the dots for a better understanding and a continuing celebration of her life.
Connecting the dots was Patty’s preferred term for connecting with Scripture stories, the stories of others, and our own stories. She appreciated the insights of the Greek words in the New Testament, parakaleo, a called one alongside, a listening presence. She resonated with the endings of the Greek word for Listen which guide us in how we listen.
Another insight comes from her Journal writing leading to an Aha! Discoveries at the end of our writing are not always anticipated in the beginning. The embedded pattern of a Socratic dialogue can be experienced, helping us to know what we already know but don’t know we know.
I will illustrate with two readings from Patty’s journals.
The one more recent, June 20, and the other comes as the closing lines in her Journaling during the Run Across Iowa.
“Not such a great sleep but back spasms have abated. Gut problems have not. The reality of Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. New time of life—Ah!, precious time and precious life—no time for waning courage or joy—both needed more than ever. Much joy last night at Isabella’s 20th birthday party. Boyfriend Anders—there’s a terrific young man and a total delight. So good to see. Add invited JD which is/was kindness in the flesh and Lois & JD came together. Great evening with all there. I am starting to grieve leaving them all. I love them all so much—such treasures, so unique, so full of life and enthusiasm. I hate to make them sad—I have always hated disappointing people I love. God, how I want them to be happy—as if I have anything to do with it! Well, I still believe I do have something to do with it—Love! And if I am capable, for brief moments, unconditional love which has such power. I want to make it to my 50th wedding anniversary—and not as an invalid, but that might not be in the cards! God’s will. I am starting to feel a force to fight to live—to accept that or try to determine God’s will for me. So many decisions— efforts—to please others and myself—at what cost? Keep pushing or relinquish? Anne MacBurney talked so much about relinquishment in the last years of her life—one by one or maybe in clumps we give up all that we love. It was running and energy and self-image and ability— will I relinquish enthusiasm? But surely I do not have to relinquish love.”
From Paddy’s Across Iowa Journal.
“Our summits appear on individual horizons, in different seasons and at varying altitudes. Whatever my summit may be, whenever it may be, running home seemed but preparation and practice for a bigger run.”
Paddy has made the bigger run to Eternity. The Lord Bless Her in her Timeless journey."
Marlin Whitmer, Ret. Hospital Chaplain and founder of the Befrienders.