Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stepping alone into 2018

It is the First Sunday after Christmas and it is New Year's Eve.

So here we sit in the midst of the Christmas season (really- Christmas only STARTS on Christmas Day - it lasts 12 days) as well as on the cusp of a new year. 

Today we are all Janus, "the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings". Like Janus, we face two ways at once, looking back at the old year, looking forward to the new.

At the best of times, it can be bittersweet. But for me, 2017 always will be the year Gayland died. Full stop. So looking back brings happy memories as well as heartbreak.

And looking forward? Well, none of us can tell the future, but generally we know with whom we will be moving into it. 

Stepping alone into 2018 is not what I expected. Going forward without my love, my friend, my partner in creation, my sounding board, my wall against which I could throw ideas, no matter how wild, unreasonable, crazy, funny, or idiotic; my shelter from the storm, my muse, my companion, my challenger, my advocate, my intercessor,  my guide, my charge, my bread baker, my co-conspirator, my man of many parts . . . well, it seems impossible. 

But of course it isn't impossible. Time doesn't stop just because his temporal presence has stopped. It just seems as if it has. The world seem curiously muted and blurred, as if everyone and everything has retreated to a great distance from me. Or I from them. It's hard to tell.

I turn into our driveway and see his car, and for a split second I smile because that means he's home. Then reality slams back into place and I can barely see, much less breathe.

Make no mistake. Sorrow hurts. It is a very real, very physical pain. My chest is sore, my muscles hurt, my heart aches.

I know his new year will be wonderful. 

All I know of mine is that it will be a time of reinvention, of carving out a new way to live as me, alone. For while he and I each had vibrant separate lives, those lives were incredibly enriched by the life we had together. We were each strong alone, but together we fed our respective strengths and helped each other develop new ones. We trusted each other's love to endure through anger, through frustration, through exasperation, through all things human. Most of all, we could be vulnerable to one another, each knowing we were safe in the care of the other.

Oh, my love. I miss you.

Days in the aftermath of his death

Katie Sherrod
December 11 at 8:49pm ·
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W.H. Auden

I am bereft.

Katie Sherrod
December 13 at 8:06am ·
It is a fearful thing
to love
what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love,
hope, dream: to
to be,
and oh! to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this
brings painful joy.
'Tis a human thing to love,
a holy thing,
to love
what death has touched.
-- Chaim Stern

Katie Sherrod
December 13 at 8:40am ·

The Rev. Mart Gayland Pool, 80, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth, died Monday, December 11, in the arms of his wife, Katie Sherrod.
The funeral will be at 1 pm on Friday, December 15, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive So., Ft. Worth, TX 76109. The Rev. Karen Calafat will celebrate, the Rev. Bruce Coggin will preach.
Gayland was born April 23, 1937, in Plainview, TX, where his father, Mart Pool, was a hotel manager and community leader. His brother, Larry, was born in Ada, Oklahoma, when Mart was managing a hotel there. The family then returned to Plainview where his father managed the Hilton Hotel. The fact that Gayland lived his most formative years in hotels may help explain his love of playing host.
The Pools were Presbyterians and Gayland went to Presbyterian church camp each summer. He graduated from Texas Tech in Lubbock with a degree in history, but was pulled toward the ministry. He went off to Union Seminary in New York City as a Presbyterian. He served First Presbyterian in Spur for two summers as a student pastor. In July of his second summer at Spur, when he was 23, his father died suddenly.
After his first year at Union, he became an Episcopalian. He transferred to General Seminary in New York City, graduating in 1962. He was ordained a deacon on April 27, 1962, by Bishop George Quarterman, bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas, in St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Lubbock. He was ordained a priest on November 30, 1962, by Quarterman at St. Mary’s, Big Spring, where he was curate.
He then became assistant chaplain at St. Mark’s School in Dallas and curate at St. Luke’s, Dallas. In 1966, he spent one year as the Canterbury Chaplain at SMU. And in 1967, he moved to Fort Worth to be Canterbury Chaplain at TCU.
In his seven years at TCU, Canterbury went from having less than 10 students to having more than 100 show up for Wednesday dinners. The students called him Super Priest.
While he was at TCU some life-changing events happened. His mother, Mattie, was living with him while she dealt with terminal cancer. After a visit, his brother Larry, sister-in-law Ginger and his two nephews, first-grader Jeffrey and baby David, left to drive home to Plainview. In avoiding a drunken driver making an illegal U-turn, their car flipped into a deep culvert. Larry and Jeffrey were killed, Ginger badly injured. Baby David survived in his infant seat.
Mattie died nine months later. Driving home from his mother’s funeral in Plainview, Gayland was overcome with grief and rage. Pulling over to the side the road, he realized he could either let the grief devour him, or he could resolve to let happiness, care, and hospitality to define his life. He knew he could best honor his lost loved ones by being a happy person. But these losses informed his ministry from that point on, making pastoral care a main focus. The teachings of Dr. Paul Lehman at Union that we need to continue what God is doing in the world “to make and keep human life human” became formative for him.
Back at TCU, the Vietnam War was going on, as was the national debate over our nation’s involvement in that war. Never one to shrink from controversy, Gayland marched in anti-war protests in downtown Fort Worth and sponsored speakers such as Jane Fonda, David Harris and comedian Dick Gregory. TCU refused to have Fonda on campus, so they moved that event to UTA. And when the City of Fort Worth refused to let rock concerts continue at Trinity Park, Canterbury sponsored them at TCU.
After seven years at TCU, Gayland was called to be rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church. Under Gayland’s leadership, they moved a charming old country church onto the Christ the King property on Lackland Road. It arrived in several pieces in December, 1975 and opened for the first service on July 4, 1976, as part of the Bicentennial Celebration in Fort Worth. When Gayland left in 1980, all the debt was retired, Christ the King had three Sunday services, and an average Sunday attendance of 200.
While he was at TCU, Gayland had arranged for interfaith groups of chaplains to study in Cuernavaca, Mexico. After a 1978 sabbatical there, he left Christ the King to become rector at St. Michaels and All Angels in Cuernavaca. He was there two years and then worked two more years as assistant to the Rt. Rev. Jose Guadalupe Saucedo, bishop of Central and South Mexico. He also became fluent in Spanish.
In 1985, he returned to the United States and accepted a call to St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth. He spent the next five years at St. Luke’s, after which he accepted a job as executive director at Tarrant Area Community of Churches. And he got married.
He first met his wife, Katie Sherrod, when she was a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sent to TCU to report on what this “controversial priest” was doing. They met again after she became an Episcopalian in the late 1980s. To their mutual astonishment, they fell in love and got married in 1991.
After Gayland left the Tarrant Area Community of Churches, he briefly became interim rector at Christ the King, and then opened the Market on Montgomery, a restaurant and gallery. He served on the Executive Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission as well as taking a number of groups on trips to Israel. His love of travel caused him to become a travel agent. He continued his ministry with services at All Saints’ Episcopal Church and All Saints Hospital.
He served as an interim priest at St. Paul’s Oak Cliff, Dallas, for two years and served four years at Holy Trinity, Rockwall/Heath, and then a second time at St. Paul’s. After that, he began assisting at various continuing congregations in the reorganized Diocese of Fort Worth.
One of the gifts that marriage brought to Gayland was another extended family in addition to all the Pools to whom he is related. He married into the large Sherrod family, which includes Katie Sherrod’s daughter, Daniella Judge, and eventually, two wonderful grandsons. Gayland became “Da” – the most indulgent grandfather on the planet.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Mart and Mattie Pool, by his brother, Larry, his nephew, Jeffrey, and his sister-in-law, Ginger Pool.
He is survived by his wife, Katie Sherrod; his step daughter, Daniella Judge; and his two grandsons, Curran and Gavin Judge; his nephew, David Pool and his wife Vel Pool; his great niece Courtnie Pool Wise; his great nephews, Jeffrey, Matthew, and Jack Pool; along with various in-laws, numerous cousins, and wonderful great nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church, 4301 Meadowbrook Drive, Fort Worth, TX, 76103; Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, 7424 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX, 75231, or the Humane Society of North Texas, attn: Donor Services, 1840 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth, TX, 76103.

Katie Sherrod
December 13 at 8:02pm ·
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
e. e. cummings

Katie Sherrod
December 14 at 1:38pm ·
A note from a friend who perfectly described Gayland: "My thoughts and prayers are with you with the passing of Gayland, a truly lovely and loving man, playful and wonderfully mischievous in the very best way to coax people trapped in habitual and inadvertent injustice to take steps toward the obviousness of kindness and generosity in new venues to previously marginalized folk."

Katie Sherrod
December 17 at 8:54am ·

Grief, a strange challenging companion, has come to take up residence with me. Grief is mutable, protean - waves of sorrow on a silvered sea become a sunlit Tuscan meadow where happy memories reside become a thieving presence making away with entire trains of thoughts become a safe vessel in which are stowed tiny moments of grace become a wild storm ripping away sleep to fling me hard into the void of his Absence.
Absence is astonishingly present, filling up entire rooms, houses, gardens, churches, cities, mountains, sucking the air out of lungs, making ears ring with the heart's keening.
Absence is astonishingly big and noisy, barging into the midst of anything it damn well pleases and taking over.
Absence is astonishingly small and silent, slipping through the tiniest vulnerability one tendril of pain at a time.
And so every morning, the daunting task of navigating a way into a world so thoroughly and completely marked by his physical Absence begins again.

Last photo of us together, taken in mid-November.

Katie Sherrod
December 21 at 10:50pm ·
So we come to the shortest day and the longest night of the year -- the Winter Solstice, when it seems as if light will never return.
My Winter Solstice has lasted eleven whole days so far, although I do have faith the light will return. Eventually. It's just that I can't quite see it right now.

Katie Sherrod
December 23 at 8:44am ·

On our honeymoon in Italy, we stayed in the rectory at St. James Outside the Walls in Florence. Our friends, the rector and his wife, had loaned it to us while they went to the mountains. Our bedroom overlooked a garden of the church. In the kitchen was an amazing espresso machine, full of buttons and levers and spouts and Gayland loved it. So every morning, he brought me a coffee in bed and we would lean back against the pillows, drink our coffee, look at the garden, and plan our adventures for the day. That started a morning routine that maintained throughout our marriage. He made coffee for me every morning, no matter if I had to get up at 4 am to catch an early plane or if I slept until 10 am. Then we'd talk about our adventures planned for the day.
Now he's off on an adventure that I can't share. And so I make my own coffee, and sit and stare at the garden, me and the cat and the dogs, amid the emptiness.

Katie Sherrod
December 25 via Instagram ·

Merry Christmas, my love. Miss you.

Katie Sherrod
December 27, 2017 at 6:59pm

Today I brought Gayland's ashes home. They are in a dark forest green velvet bag with a beige drawstring. The bag is inside a polished walnut box, itself lined with coral panne velvet and fitted with with brass feet and handles. He bought it years ago, a bargain he got at a Bombay outlet story. If you knew Gayland, you know how pleased he always was to find fine things at a bargain price. The box has a few scrapes and worn places, because Gayland used it from time to time as a base for small sculptures in our house.

He was clear he wanted to be cremated, and he was constantly updating me on the places he wanted some of his ashes sprinkled. Each of the places on the list has its own part in the story of our marriage.

Here's a partial list - our garden, Jerusalem and Magda in Israel; Orvieto, Florence, and Rome in Italy; at Abbaye Notre Dame du Bec, located in Le Bec Hellouin in Normandy, France; also in France, the Left Bank of the Seine just at Notre Dame (where he proposed to me); at Chartres Cathedral and at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud in the Loire (Robert of Arbrissel declared that the leader of his new order should always be a woman and appointed Petronille de Chemillé as the first abbess. She was succeeded by Matilda d'Anjou, the aunt of Henry II of England. The abbesses wore mitres, like bishops). Cuernavaca, Mexico.

I always reminded him he was going to have to leave me enough money for a round-the-world trip to accomplish all this, but alas, he didn't quite pull that off.

So here his ashes sit, in front of the fire on a cold dreary night, the kind he loved. He would make soup and we would sit in front of the fire and eat and read our books and talk to one another, or read to one another passages that caught our attention, and the dogs would sleep (Sam in his lap) and he would move only to refresh a drink or our soup bowls.

I've made the soup, lit the fire, poured my drink and found my book. Now I sit, holding a dog, and memories.


As promised, until death do us part.