Review – “Year of Magical Thinking”
Contributed by Tom Brown
Author Joan Didion, in a spellbinding 227-page memoir, takes readers through a heart-wrenching double disaster. First, the shock of seeing her adult daughter Quintana nearly die from pneumonia in the Christmas season of 2003. Then, only two weeks later, watching her husband, critic John Gregory Dunne, collapse and die of a coronary during dinner in their Manhattan apartment.
When her husband’s body was rolled into an emergency room and pronounced dead, one medic remarked to another that Didion was a “cool customer” and didn’t need a sedative. Didion’s story tracks her roller-coaster emotional state over the subsequent year, documenting that, internally, she was anything but a “cool customer” despite her efforts to carry on as normally as possible. Although she didn’t enroll in grief therapy, Didion’s tale suggests that perhaps she should have. Instead, she focused, understandably, on her daughter’s continuing medical needs, suppressing her own emotions. If there is any lesson to be learned from the book, it’s not to underestimate the impact of grief, nor to assume it will begin fading within days or weeks of a funeral.
What makes Didion’s account remarkable is her honesty in detailing how a couple becomes intertwined after decades together, no matter how intellectually independent they imagine themselves to be. In the case of Didion and Dunne, the bonding was unusually pervasive because they spent almost all their marriage working together every day in the same house. Hardly an hour would go by when they wouldn’t say something to each other, or show each other something they had just read or written. They seldom were apart for more than a few days. And while they had their arguments, and even talked of divorce, their periods of intense anger rarely lasted more than a day or two.
She writes at length about little changes in her husband’s behavior shortly before his attack, and seemingly random comments that he had made. She wrestles with the possibility that these were premonitions or warning signs that she missed as they both were keeping an anguished watch over their daughter, who at times was in an induced coma.
As she replays events and dialogue in her mind, she sometimes imagines she could bring John back if she did one little thing differently. She wonders if the clumsy Heimlich maneuver she tried to perform, mistakenly thinking her husband was choking, was a fatal error. Would CPR have saved him in the five minutes it took for the ambulance to show up?
It takes her several months before she can bear to give away his clothes. And months more before she can handle driving past places where they had lived or enjoyed meals together.
There are some gaps in her confessional narrative that many would be curious about. She sidesteps discussing the romantic aspects of their marriage and whether she still felt sexually alive either before or after her husband’s death. No mention of any jealousy or possible infidelity, or even whether such episodes colored her grief.
Yet time does provide a degree of healing. At the end of her “year,” the feeling of loss still remains, and she hasn’t remarried, as her husband had once predicted. But she finally has reached the point of recognizing that Dunne finally is done – past tense, gone forever – and that his death was not preventable.
“…If we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead,” she concludes.
She also comes to realize that all of reality is a process of continual change. Restaurants they once enjoyed together will go out of business, buildings where they lived will be remodeled or demolished, and even the mountain landscapes they admired will erode into the sea.
Prayer List for AUG 13, 2017
HEALING – Slava asks prayers for a favorable CT test scheduled for his spouse Marty. For a friend of Lois’s family, struggling with cancer. For Becki, not feeling well. For Clarence, recovering from neck and spinal injury in a traffic accident. For Jay, starting a powerful new drug for his COPD on Wednesday; side effects could be risky but his doctors are optimistic.
THANKSGIVING - -That T-Bear received a favorable report on her biopsy.
RECONCILIATION – For a member in conflict with a brother. For protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
PEACE – for Korea, Guam, Syria, Iraq, Israel and all other battlegrounds.
SAFE TRAVEL for Gil heading to RI, Paul in Connecticut and other members on the road.
Prayers gathered at our Aug. 6 worship service:
HEALING -- For Clarence, struck by a scooter driver who was texting as he drove; for Becki’s son Stephen, getting mesh repair inside his skull; for Peter and Teresa’s husband Rick, both recovering from hernia surgery; for Dave L., continuing radiation treatment. For Aris, for regaining strength and nutrition. For Bonnie, awaiting results of a biopsy. For Rev. Debbie's spouse Lynda in Hendersonville NC, in pain after surgery. For longtime MCC music evangelist Delores Berry, hospitalized with kidney problems. For anyone coming to our church in need of healing physically, emotionally or spiritually.
CONDOLENCES – Ron and Clarence ask prayers for family of Dave McBrayne, a friend who passed away Friday. For Clair, whose husband Dave has died. For the family of columnist Mark Lane, his mother died a few days ago at 86. (Rev. Wiley conducted a beautiful memorial on Monday.) For Anthony in RI (Jay’s cousin) – Anthony’s father died last week after 3 years in a nursing home. For Larry C. in Miami, mourning the loss of long-time church pianist Barry Underwood.
SAFE TRAVEL – For Alyce and Jeanie, traveling to NY for their NY wedding. For Frank O. as he enjoys his Canadian vacation. For Dave & Merrill and other NCF members on vacation trips. For Brittany & family, returning to NC.
GUIDANCE -- For Deb and Cindy as they launch a new clinic on Beville Road.Prayers gathered at our Aug. 6 worship service:
Several NCF members have expressed interest in trying to form a “gay book club” to meet once a month or so. We have set SEPT 27, 6:30 p.m. for our first meeting, which will be at church for an hour or so. The book we’ll discuss is a David Sedaris collection of humorous semi-autobiographical essays “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.”
Some of you may have read one of the earlier humor books by Sedaris, a gay author who has written “Santaland Diaries," "Me Talk Pretty Some Day, "Naked" and several others. This Owls book is available at most branches of the Volusia County library. Also Tom Brown has ordered a few used copies, which will cost $4 apiece for softcover, $5 for hardcover. Those who prefer brand new copies can go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other sites, or call your favorite bookstore. You can find reviews of Owls at Goodreads.com -- its overall rating is 3.8 out of 4 stars.
PRAYER LIST July 23
Prayers gathered at our July 23 service
HEALING – For Dean H.’s stroke; for Carol Pyles; for John & Dave’s Edgewater neighbor Peggy, taken away by ambulance Sunday morning; for Ron’s Aunt Rosie; for Clarence’s neighbor, going thru a tough time after facing a pull-the-plug decision; for Jerry N.’s aunt Catherine, now has a trach in place; for John Davis, in bad shape after heart surgery. For Teresa’s husband Rick, facing possible hernia repair surgery. For Dave L.'s radiation treatments.
COMFORT – For the family of Harold C., the Alzheimer’s patient whose body was found in a Fairmount Road back yard on Sunday.
THANKSGIVING – Aris thanks the many people who prayed for her during her long illness.
SAFE TRAVEL – For Rev. Donna’s sister.
ADOPTION -- For the small German shepherd who needs a home & yard (contact Char for details)
We aim to collect at least 100 recipies and plan to sell the cookbook for $10 each. If you or your business would like to help support the project as a sponsor, donate $20 or more, and you will receive a copy of the cookbook plus have your name listed on the Sponsors page.
Members of other churches and organizations are welcome to participate as well, and we'll be glad to include the name of your group.
Prayer List July 16, 2017
Prayers gathered at our July 16 service
GUIDANCE – Lois asks God to help volunteers locate the elderly veteran who wandered away from his nursing home several days ago. Courage for his family. For Nick to find a job. For Lamont in Michigan.
HEALING – For Jerry N’s aunt on life support in Alabama. For Keith G.’s back; for Heather’s co-worker, awaiting a heart transplant; for Heather’s Aunt Jan, suffering from Alzheimer’s; Frank asks prayers for Carman, who broke a hip, wrist, knee and ankle; for Jan’s ankle; for Joan’s cancer; for Carol Pyles, fighting cancer. For Suzie, recovery from heart attack. For Dean and John, rest and relief from pain.
PRAISES - -Lois is glad her friend Frances is doing well with a new pacemaker. We’re thankful Aris was strong enough to rejoin us at worship. Tom thankful 2 relatives are out of danger – sister Dawn who lives near a wildfire in Oroville, Calf, and niece Sharon, near the sink hole in Land O Lakes Fl.
SAFE TRAVEL – For Frank heading to Canada on Friday, and those helping him with the trip.
The NCF Board on July 9, 2017 approved Rev. Donna Choate's proposed addition to her pastoral covenant with New Church Family. She noted it applies only to herself. It would be up to the board to decide whether to require similar no-contact provisions for future pastors. Questions should be directed to the pastor or board members.
Addendum to New Church Family
Pastoral Covenant 2017
At the time of separation, the exiting pastor will no longer be Pastor of New Church Family, and
therefore must discontinue the functions of the pastoral office in the New Church Family
Congregation unless specifically authorized to do so by the new Pastor (Interim/Permanent), or
Board of Directors in the absence of a working Pastor.
Because of the sensitivity of the pastoral relationship, it is important that the departing pastor, in
any dissolution, assume certain responsibilities to the former Congregation, to individual
members of that Congregation, and to the interim and next installed Pastors.
These responsibilities are:
1) That all pastoral and professional relationships and responsibilities of the Pastor with the
congregation will end as of the effective date of the dissolution;
2) That the Pastor will not be involved in any way in the selection process of either the interim
Pastor or the next installed pastor. Neither will he or she be involved in any way with the
selection of any search team or Pastor nominating committee.
3) That the Pastor, after leaving, will not become engaged in conversations which, in any way,
offer opinions or criticism about the life of the congregation or the performance of the interim or
any subsequent installed Pastors;
4) That any desire on the part of members of the congregation for the departing Pastor to
participate in congregational life or services should be discussed not with the departing Pastor,
but with the interim Pastor or subsequent installed Pastor;
5) That the departing Pastor may participate in a wedding or funeral of the congregation, after
the date of dissolution, only by invitation of the interim Pastor or installed Pastor, who shall be
Furthermore, it is advised that the exiting Pastor take an extended break from Church
attendance and activities for a period of no less than one year so as to allow the new Pastor the
opportunity to develop an identity as the shepherd/leader. This has no reflection on continued
friendships; it is limited to the dissolution of duties as a Pastor for the New Church Family
Congregation outlined in 1-5.
Reverend Donna S. Choate
NCF SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING – July 9, 2017
(Meeting will start directly after our worship service -- approximately 11:30 a.m., and will be followed by the regular monthly board meeting, in the boardroom. )
1. Call to Order – Opening prayer
2. Certification of quorum – Need 20% of membership ( members)
3. Acceptance of agenda
4. Election of board member to fill vacant secretary position – term up in February 2019.
a. Char Rywant
b. Judy O'Melia
5. Announcement regarding the outcome of the Board of Directors election.
6. Adjourn and Closing Prayer
JULY 20 GOD GAB Discussion -- Byzantine and Oriental Christianity
What are the Christian Churches of the East, what are their beliefs, and how do they express their spiritual life? Paul Edson leads a God Gab discussion of the ancient Eastern Christian Churches that have been so strongly affected by political events of the past hundred years. Dr. Edson, recently retired from Embry-Riddle University’s humanities division, has been exploring the life of Eastern Christian Churches for almost 60 years. This free educational event, open to the public, is part of an ongoing series exploring various faith traditions found in the Volusia-Flagler. Like all of our God Gab chats, the intent is not to convert anyone to a particular belief, but to inform each other about our diversity.
The event will take place July 20, Thursday, 6-7:30 p.m., at New Church Family, 3520 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach (US 92, just west of I-4). For more information call the church office at 386-527-5952 or facilitator Tom Brown at 386-576-6671.
Prayers of the people (June 25) -- HEALING: For Stephen's eye surgery today; for Teresa's brother-in-law John with cancer; for Aunt Rosi's recuperation from surgery; for Aris at Halifax-Port Orange; for Dave L.'s start of radiation treatment; for Carol P. in Tampa area; for Jerry C.'s mobility problems.