Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Waking up a little bit at a time



Br. Mark, I am devastated!
I lost the love of my life, my soul mate!—Michael S.

It was Thursday, late for here in our retreat house, about 5 PM, when I heard a knock on our front door. I have noticed that as I age that I am more in touch with my ‘inner cranky self’ and actually channel my father. So I said “Oh for Pete’s sake" and got up. However by the time I got to the door, ‘my inner child’ came back and I was able to smile at the man who wanted to come in. He was a pleasant looking sort, in his eighties who wanted to spend a few days here. We had room so I got him set up. As he was signing in, he told me that he just lost his wife of 53 years and he just needed some time alone, to be able to sit and be with the ‘spirit’ of his wife.

Because of his age and he being on emotional overload, I was careful that I got him checked in and showed him around. As we were beginning our tour of out retreat house he blurted out to me: “Br. Mark I am devastated, I lost the love of my life, my soul mate!” I could tell that he was a man who usually was very reserved and private, so for him to say that to me a stranger showed how deep his pain was. I have learned that not much can be said in situations such as these and that this was a time just to listen and be with him. As we continued our tour, I brought him into our church, which he truly loved. I tried to explain what the Eucharist was to us and that if he wanted to sit in our church it might be helpful for him to understand that when he looked at our tabernacle. He thanked me. Over the next two days, he seemed calmer but still distracted. I did ask if his family knew he was here and he said yes. I was relieved about that.

He has made a deep impression me. His dignity and gentleness spoke volumes. Since his wife was also his best friend and soul mate, it must have had a deep effect on his soul and spirit. He came across as someone not afraid of his emotions. Perhaps being loved by another person and seen and accepted has a deeply transformative effect on both parties. His pain and suffering come from that fact. He seemed to have no regrets and understood that his deep mourning is the price that must be paid for loving deeply.

We all carry loss. As we age the inner feeling of loneliness grows. I believe that as we mature, we are continually waking up a little bit at a time. Being awake is not always pleasant, but the understanding that we are all pilgrims is I believe an important lesson to take to heart. Perhaps the most important, for what we understand about life will dictate how we live it.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery


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