…for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
This morning, I was on my way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light candles for my children and grandchildren, as I always do when in New York. I happened upon the funeral procession of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, and followed it. For some reason, one of the policemen mistook me for a reporter and allowed me closer than most other onlookers. The sky was gray, preparing itself to rip open and pour. The mourners were somber, the music elegiac, the air sweet with incense.
During the homily, much was made of the Cardinal’s humility. Rather than focus on adulating him, the funeral focused on what Cardinal Egan loved more than himself: God and the church. And that was my favorite part. While a Catholic myself, to me it makes little difference what religion we are, if humility and the fact that our own individual lives are but a part of a vast, interconnected consciousness are what we
value above all else.
One of the many ways of valuing these is to always remain open. The eyes, the ears, and the heart. Later in the day, I had reason to stop by an Apple store to get a device fixed. I was led to a woman in blue, who greeted me with an infectious, beaming smile. The kind of smile you simply can’t leave unreciprocated. As she looked through my gadget, she commented on the great number of digital and audio books it contained. “Yes,” I answered, “I have trouble sleeping at night, so I read.”
“I understand,” she said. “I can’t sleep at night, either.” I asked her why that was. Without revealing any more about her than I have the right to, I’ll say that her reason is that her boyfriend was murdered six months ago. She has since founded and runs a charity in his honor. The details were awful. And I found myself wondering how she could have smiled at me, and probably everyone else she sees throughout the day, with such energy, so much light.
And I was instantly reminded of a quote I love, whose author I cannot remember: “Only the heart that’s had enough stays shut.” I believe in that because it gives me hope. It should give us all hope. When we think we’ve had enough, often we find that we’ve underestimated ourselves.
I’ll probably never see her again, and who knows if Cardinal Egan is looking down and approving of his tasteful, pious funeral. What matters is that my eyes and ears were open. So my heart was filled.