Monday, August 30, 2010

"Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" by Mark Twain

"I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others need no preparation and got none."  – Mark Twain

Few know Twain dedicated such great devotion to this book. I include pieces of his work.

Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen.

Joan of Arc, a mere child in years, ignorant, unlettered, a poor village girl unknown and without influence, found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless under an alien domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened and dispersed, all spirit torpid, all courage dead in the hearts of the people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage and oppression, their King cowed, resigned to its fate, and preparing to fly the country; and she laid her hand upon  this nation, this corpse, and it rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory, she turned back the tide of the Hundred Years' War, she fatally crippled the English power, and died with the earned title of DELIVERER OF FRANCE, which she bears to this day.

I was her playmate, and I fought at her side in the wars; to this day I carry in my mind, fine and clear, the picture of that dear little figure, with breast bent to the flying horse's neck, charging at the head of the armies of France, her hair streaming back, her silver mail plowing steadily deeper and deeper into the thick of the battle..I was with her to the end; and when that black day came whose accusing shadow will lie always upon the memory of the mitered French slaves of England who were her assassins, and upon France who stood idle and essayed no rescue, my hand was the last she touched in life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remembering A Living Saint

August 12, 2010. Twenty years ago today was a Sunday. I know this because I was preparing myself for a road trip home to my house in Burlington where I was teaching and coaching. Two-a-days started the 13th (Monday), so I had to make the four-hour drive home to settle in and prepare for the season--and to prepare for my second year of teaching at Burlington High School.

But I was very hesitant to go for good reason. You see, I was looking down into the beautiful brown eyes of a living saint. I was giving comfort to an Irish leprechaun with a fiery temper who had given her life for the goodness of anyone who wished to receive it. I was looking at the face of my mother on her last day on earth.

She had been in the hospital for two weeks with complications as a result of a lifetime of faith in God whom she had prayed to that He would let her live to see her children grown. My mother battled rheumatic fever as a child, and as a result, weakened her heart.

After bearing four children, three in three years, she developed a heart condition that left her near death. Following the birth of my little sister, she underwent three open-heart surgeries in four years in the late sixties and early seventies. She battled various surgeries following that over the years--from pacemaker replacement to colostomy surgery. All the while, she prayed she would live to see her children grow.

Fast forward to May, 1990. My little sister graduated from college, and two months later, my mother found herself in the hospital--thank God, for the last time. For two weeks she struggled to hang on. I attended summer school, my little sister watched over her day after day, and we all took turns staying with her at night, since her medications made her delusional. Somehow, after all these years struggling in and out of hospitals, something was different. We didn't want to admit it, but it was.

I looked down into her peaceful face and told my mom I'd skip coaching and stay with her. She said, "Joey, you need to move on with your life. I'll be okay. You go home."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, my boy. You need to go."

"I'll come back up Saturday and see you."

She responded with a gentle smile, she raised her frail hand to my cheek, and said, "I love you."

With that I left with all the confidence in the world that I would see her in six days.

The four-hour drive home was not easy, but my dog Zach kept me company as I thought of my sickly mother and the tasks before me.

When I reached home, I called my dad at the hospital to see how Mom was doing. A nurse answered the phone at the station, and was caught off guard. She stumbled trying to find words, but she finally put me on hold and suggested I talk to Dad.

It happened. Just happened.

"How is she, Dad?" Silence. A choking comment...

"It's over...I said, 'Sugs, I'm going to leave the room...just let go. You've suffered enough.'"

Lulu Skerjanec was a living saint. She realized early on she was blessed with only a short time here on earth. We didn't know this, but she did. She lived every syllable as if it were her last in the way God has called us all to live.

She reserved nothing for herself, and she gave everything to everyone. She prayed constantly. Her relationship with the Blessed Mother is one we can only imagine. She prayed the Rosary at least once per day (some days many), and she prayed for everyone she knew as she did.

Lulu Skerjanec asked only for a simple life on earth, so she might live a life of eternity in Heaven with the Holy Father.

How fitting that she was buried August 15, 1990--the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. May God bless her especially this day, and may He bless all who knew her--a living saint.