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Saturday, January 19, 2013


Looking from the window of the train,  I thought of my dear friend who was going to have her first surgery and I hoped her last. I visited St. Francis Church near Penn Station when I reached the city. I lit a candle for her in the intimate urban garden that was tucked away on the side of the church.  On the stone wall, there were rows of flickering votives, not electric and individual kneelers with prayer bars. There were a couple of benches and white chrysanthemums were strewn about in this holy place. I prayed for my friend's speedy recovery.  It was 11:50 and in ten minutes the noon bells would chime. Ahhh, such a lovely sound. I rarely hear church bells anymore. After the glorious resounding of the bells, I toyed with the idea of attending the 12:15 Mass but I was hungry. The thought of a Hale and Hearty pesto avocado sandwich was tempting. I thought that the Mass only lasted twenty minutes, so I knew my stomach could wait.

 I found my way to the lower chapel and chose my pew. I didn't feel like praying while I waited for Mass to begin. I had already read the Psalm of the day on my iphone app and I had read a page in Jeremiah at home before I said some prayers on the train. I opted to play Solitaire. I thought maybe I shouldn't be playing with my phone in church but I continued anyway. Suddenly,  a young woman in the pew behind me leaned forward and tapped me on my shoulder.  "I am filled with the spirit", she said, "and I have the need to tell you this. Please pay attention. You must listen to this Mass with your whole heart. This could be your last day."  Instantly I thought that this was one of those religious nuts, so I turned my head away from her and fixed my eyes on the fourth station of the cross. This zealot could have just told me to stop playing Solitaire.  She didn't need to get so dramatic about it.

Within minutes, Friar Paul entered the altar and began reciting Mass. After the gospel, he told us about his calling earlier that morning.  He had a sermon planned but when he saw the extraordinary sky, he was compelled to speak about something else.  He revealed to us that on days when the sky is an outstanding clear, vibrant blue he is reminded of,  and I knew he was going to say, September 11th. I often remember that particular sky as well. He proceeded to tell us that those people who died that day were going about their routines not having a hint that this was their last day on earth. He looked at us sitting there in our pews on yet another beautiful day and said, "some of you will die that way too. You will be going about a regular day and suddenly you will be struck down without knowing what hit you. Some of you will die of an illness and others, if you're lucky, will die in your sleep. None of us here today will know how we will die. This could be your last day."

 I felt a shiver down my spine and I lost my appetite!

Mass ended. I walked to work. I looked straight ahead. I looked to my left. I looked to my right. I waited for the lights. I had a watchful eye and a keen ear. I knew the message was to live each day with our eyes open to the divinity in ourselves and everyone around us but I couldn't stop hearing that singular message to me from the girl with a great passion and the priest on the pulpit, "this could be your last day."

Fortunately, the bright, beautiful day had turned into night. I arrived at the train station. I walked down the stairs to the track. I entered the train. I found a seat. I had five hours to midnight. I turned on my iphone. There was the game of Solitaire just as I had left it in church. I could complete it and win. The balloons would rise. I would see "Congratulations!" on the screen.  I was ready to hit "resume," when a voice inside me said, " hit new game." I thought, "yes, I better hit a new game because if I hit resume I will die right here in this seat on the Trenton Express!"

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