Saturday, April 15, 2017

40. DOOR

After a delightful evening in Paris, where we feasted on friendship and good food with Paco, Anne and Bea, we returned to our flat for three hours sleep and an early morning train ride to Normandy.

 Our speedy silver bullet took us I fast forward through the French countryside, new with pale green colors of spring, spotted with blocks of brilliant gold in the early blooming grapeseed crops.
We met our tour guide, Flo, at the train station and began our eight-hour tour with a short video in the van. I sat in the second seat between Libby and David and knew we were in for a memorable day when I noticed that both of them were immediately wiping tears at the sobering recounting of aging war veterans telling of their experiences in this place. Flo was full of passion for the Americans who gave their lives for the freedom of his people. That passion and vigor in a twenty-six-year old man was refreshing.
Flo shows us a paratrooper's vest called Mae West.

We heard our hushed whispers echo in churches, felt the sands of Utah and Omaha beaches on our feet, walked awestruck through Pointe du Hoc where the farmlands were so damaged by bombing that the farmer had to abandon it, leaving a holy scar to remind us of the wounds received there by all mankind. 
We felt the chill of large German bunkers built with slave labor by some of the French themselves, forced by the Germans to work against their will, and walked in grateful silence the rows on rows of white crosses, thousands of them, that stand at attention in the American military cemetery that overlooks the waters. 
We spent a charming evening strolling through the streets of Bayeaux, France, eating a small dinner on the porch of a restaurant in the shadow of the town cathedral, and then caught the train back to Paris.
As we stood at the train station waiting for the train back to Paris, Libby’s Fitbit sent her this message: 

“Congratulations! You’ve earned your first Trailshoe badge for walking 30,000 steps in one day!" 
I don’t remember a single thing about the train ride home.
It was nearly midnight when we arrived back at the flat we were renting. We were staying in a very old building, a couple centuries old, with wonderful old wooden floors and large wooden beams jutting through the ceilings and floor to ceiling glass doors opening onto a courtyard. There were perhaps a dozen or so flats that were accessed through a courtyard entrance. Walking down the narrow street one would not know that behind a pair of massive blue doors was this community, unless you had been there. 
The heavy wooden doors were locked when we returned, so David entered the security code. There was a strange buzz when he finished, but not the familiar click, indicating the lock was lifted. We pressed on the doors and they would not open. Kate took a turn trying the code, and then Libby and then me, just to satisfy each of us. You know how when something isn’t working each of us has this human instinct to give it a go ourselves, even though we have complete confidence in the other person trying? Libby messaged the manager from whom we had rented the flat. While we waited for a return message an energetic cluster of young adults came walking up the rue carrying a couple boxes of pizza. They greeted us and tried the code, with the same results of course. The young woman among the three men planted herself atop one of the motorcycles parked on the street while the boys shook the large wooden doors and tried the code something like 538 times. They also tried to contact the person from whom they were renting their flat for the week. They finally ate their pizza, and the girl had a smoke. I walked up and down the street whistling, enjoying how music echoes off tall stone structures. Libby heard back from the manager, who answered something like: “Oh yes, that sometimes happens. Let me see what I can do” followed by, “I’m working on it”, followed by, “I’m still working on it.” 
Trying to storm the Bastille, or something like that,
with our new neighbors in Paris
After an hour and a half he suggested we find a hotel. Apparently, historically, when someone was locked out they called other residents who were inside and asked them to come open the door. But last night no one was home, or they were not answering their phones. The large knocker on the right-hand door, ancient looking, sort of like the one on Scrooge’s front door, was ineffective as it had been painted stiff in the joints. The boys gave the door a good shake, hoping someone inside would notice and rescue us. Alas, to no avail. The youngsters went on their way, and we finally resigned ourselves to the fact that we would need to find another place to sleep, with no pajamas, no toothbrushes or other supplies. We just hoped that by morning the manager’s promise that he would get us in would be true.
Sure enough, when David walked over from our hotel at 8:00 this morning, the large blue doors were open. We retrieved our things and took off, stopping at the home of Victor Hugo and the Eiffel Tower before we boarded the Eurostar, where I am at this moment writing as we travel back to London.
I’ve been pondering that adventure last night, standing on a narrow street in Paris, just feet from our belongings and a nice soft pillow after a long day, thinking about the meaning and power of doors. My sister Sherry likes to lock her doors. I think it’s in response to a friend of hers having been murdered when she was showering and someone entered her house. I understand that. But I am torn about locking my door, especially when I am alone. I realize that not only am I locking out anyone who might harm me, I am also locking out those who could come to my aid if I needed help.
A number of years ago, when they built an addition on our little neighborhood church in Farmington, they added doors to the outside in our Primary and Relief Society rooms. The strange thing about those doors is they’re made only to exit. There is no handle on the outside. If you wanted to get into the Primary room in a hurry from the outside, your only option would be to knock and hope someone would let you in. Otherwise, go to one of the main doors.
Those doors on our church, and the huge blue doors at the courtyard to our flat in Paris, remind me of that painting of Jesus where he is standing outside the door, knocking. There is no handle for him to turn on his side of the door.
I am reminded, this Easter eve, that while he has the most amazing gift to offer us in our human lives, He will not force it upon us. We must open our own doors and let him in.
Jesus saith unto him;
I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh to the Father but by me.
John 14:6
One day all of us will get to the point when the doors we come to are the ones we have no control over - eternal doors. It is He who flings them open, allowing us access to that place we could not enter on our own.
At the end of this Holy season, culminating tomorrow in the commemoration of His Resurrection, I add my witness that He is the way. In the end, because of the gift he gave that first Easter, every one of us who has a body now will be resurrected just as He was. It’s what I call God’s "open door policy”. We need entrance, and Christ is the door.
What a Giver - and what a gift!

Friday, April 14, 2017


Last week, on Palm Sunday, I told the kids in our Primary Sharing Time that my husband wore a dress to work. They giggled, and looked over at him. He teaches the nine-year-olds in our church services and they know him as a pleasant and fairly serious kind of fellow. I handed David his judicial robes and he slipped his arms, one after the other in the flowing black sleeves of his work attire. I told the kids about the bailiff in Dave’s courtroom, who came in before the judge and announced “All Rise!” At that moment, all the kids stood up. I mentioned that when Dave was first appointed to the bench I was worried I would have to rise every time he walked in the door from work, but it turned out not to be true, thank goodness! I then invited three of our teachers and one of our boys to come to the front. I named them Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and handed them Bibles, asking them to find the accounts they had written that were published in the Bible. I told the kids that I was now going to pretend, which they know is not an unusual thing for me.
I came in yelling that a crazy thing had happened and some guy was claiming to be the Messiah and he claimed to raise our neighbor Lazarus from the dead and now he was riding in to the city of Jerusalem on the back of a small white donkey and professing to be God. Insane! Absurd! That’s when Matthew, Mark, Luke and John spoke up and stood as witnesses, testifying that they had been there, and had seen how Lazarus had begun to stink, how his sisters Mary and Martha had wept with sorrow and frustration, and how, on the command of Jesus, their brother rose from his stony bed and breathed the dank air inside the tomb.
I hear almost daily interesting stories of witnesses, and of defendants and advocates. Super interesting stories from the daily experience of my husband in his role as a Utah State Court judge. He has a particularly secure job, with a steady flow of clients. Crime takes no holidays. He oversees cases on all levels, from the happy end of the spectrum, where he performs marriages and adoptions, to the other, where he is obliged to hear horrific stories of murder and other unspeakable crimes. I could not do what he does, but he is well suited for it because he loves the law and believes that our system of justice is based on eternal truths and he wants to represent those truths as best he can.
Before Dave was given his custom robe and his own courtroom, he visited the courtrooms of other judges as an advocate. A purest in terms of the law, he believes everyone is entitled to intelligent representation. He served well as an attorney for almost three decades. Many times I received personal letters and comments from his clients who had the deepest respect for him and his skill as a lawyer. He loved being able to represent, but he did not love billing his clients. When he became a judge that aspect of his work was most pleasing to him… not having to keep track of his hours and bill the people he represented.
Yesterday I visited the Musea d’Orsay in Paris France with his honor and our daughter, Kate and my sister, Libby. We spent the afternoon in the company of the masters: Monet, and Renoir, Manet, Pissaro, Degas and Cezanne, among others. When you are in a place that has a seemingly eternal collection of master-works, it takes disciplined self-talk to stop and recognize the magnitude of each piece. I force myself into my pretend mode, imagining that I am in the flat of a new friend and I am seeing this painting on their wall for the first time; a treasure for generations with value beyond that of any other possession. The feast of aesthetics in a museum can be overwhelmingly stimulating and one could risk overdosing if not careful. So, it takes some good self-talk, and an ability to permit oneself to leave and digest what has already entered the sensory pool rather than repeatedly overindulging to excessive discomfort.

One striking painting by Cezanne was entitled L'Avocate. All the plaques were in French, and I am thinking that Avocate in French means advocate or attorney in English, though I’m not sure (and since I am at this moment on a train in the French countryside without Wi-Fi or cell coverage, I cannot Google it.)
It took me a moment to figure out why the painting looked faintly familiar to me. Not until I reviewed a photo I had taken of it did I finally recognize why. The stance of the Advocate reflects the stance of the Savior Jesus Christ in the portrait that hangs in our home. He has one hand over his heart, and the other raised before him, with his finger pointing upwards, as if he is trying to make a point.

I am reminded on this day, Good Friday, that I am blessed to be in love with good advocates. One is my husband. The other is my Savior and king. They both represent me when I cannot defend myself. And neither keep an account of the hours spent, or the energy and intelligence spent, on my behalf. There is no billable hour to them. That makes them forever in my heart, and me forever in their debt.
at the little church in
Normandy France we visited today.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

38. MASS

Twelve years ago today:
We sat in silence, our backs forced straight and square there in those wooden pews. Heavy, sorrowful silence. The footsteps of the priest made the only sound as he walked up the aisle, past our family on one side and a cluster of friends on the other. The air shifted as he passed, his robes moving through the stillness. I held David’s hand in mine, my other arm curled around the shoulder of one of our children. The scents and the sounds and the specter of the church were distantly familiar to David, who had stood at that very altar as an altar boy in his youth. Now we were visiting from our western home, returned to Pittsburgh for the funeral mass of David’s father.
The music, the spoken chorus of words repeated by the congregation, the Eucharist that resembled our sacrament, the Latin and the candles and the dancing of the hands above the heart: these we had experienced before, though we are faithful church-going Latter-day Saints.
My David was born into an old Catholic family, steeped in holy practices for centuries - back in their French and Irish homelands, and later in old Quebec and then as immigrants settled in Michigan. They named all their sons Joseph, and their daughters Mary, their middle names becoming the familiar names they called each other. David’s Grandpa, Joseph Antoine Roy was the oldest son of 18 children, born of the same mother. They practiced their faith devotedly back then. When David’s parents, Donald Ray Connors and Helen Roy moved to Pittsburgh they enrolled their young children in Catholic school. Neither of David’s parents ever attended a day of school except catholic schools. Dave’s dad earned his PhD in Nuclear Physics from Notre Dame and his JD (law) degree from Duquesne University. He served on the Diocesan School Board. They knew the prayers by heart.
But when it became apparent that the nuns and others may have been misguided in the way they treated and taught their students, Helen removed her younger children and placed them in public school. Today, I’m not sure what kind of spiritual commitment David’s family has with Catholic practices. It’s not something we talk about since his parents died.
I do know that the practices of the Mormon church in the 1970’s were a tremendous heartbreak for Helen, and I feel great sorrow for that. When we married in the Washington DC temple it was incomprehensible that the groom’s family was not permitted to attend the wedding. In those days, though we sincerely asked for an exception, the LDS leaders were adamant about not having ring ceremonies, and if we were to marry civilly we would have to wait a year to be sealed in the temple. I imagine Jesus shaking his holy head a bit at the stiffness and divisiveness such practices caused, but that’s me putting my human spin on Jesus. Today it would be different.  Our temples are holy places, open only to those who sincerely believe. Otherwise they would lose their holiness. I don’t think anyone would seriously contend that people who do not fully align with the gospel and its ordinances should participate in temple ceremonies. But there is a wound that only God can heal that was placed on Helen and her family when they were not permitted to witness our marriage; as if they were unrighteous people. It still hurts my heart to think that there may have been any implication that they were anything but good Christian servants.
It took many years for me to feel like Helen could see that we were fairly normal, non-cult-following Americans who loved God and followed Jesus Christ, and our children were good, devoted but semi-normal kids. At least I hope so.
Since we lived in Salt Lake City and they lived in Pittsburgh, our summer vacations were generally spent either in Pittsburgh or at the cottages in Michigan. Sometimes I wished we could go somewhere new, but Dave and I agreed when we moved so far away that we would make it a point to visit Dave’s family at least once a year. We decided, when we were in Michigan, that it mattered to us to be able to worship with Dave’s parents and grandparents. So, when we were there on weekends we attended mass with them, down at the Church of the Immaculate Conception that faced the sunrise side of Lake Huron. There was a profound prompting that returned and returns to me still; that this was acceptable to God, that it was no indicator that we were anything but faithful to our own religion, but that we were embracing of the people and the religion that was the foundation of our family’s patriarch. David did not suddenly become a good person when he entered the waters of baptism in the Mormon church. His goodness was born of faithful parents and grandparents, of thoughtful and devoted priests and teachers in his Catholic upbringing, of confidence in the meaning behind holy wine and sacred bread. I honor and revere the goodness in his ancestors and cherish their faithfulness, like I honor my own ancestors who crossed oceans and plains for their religious convictions.

Today, in our home, we display this love and reverence in many ways. Next to my statue of the angel Moroni, a replica of the one atop the Washington DC temple, is a Holy Bible with a Catholic rosary marking our reading place. And on the wall in our family room is hung David’s father’s rosary over an old print of Christ, below which is hanging his father’s Catholic crucifix. We are the product of our pasts. We are divinely guided by those who went before us, who carried our names and our convictions and brought us to the place we stand today. Lord, thank you for this holy heritage.