24 November 2003


pauline's memorial was saturday at the willistown meeting -- her own meeting for many years, and the home of dozens of SPC retreats during the course of pauline's ministry at swarthmore.

i ended up riding to the memorial in pauline's own car. diana, who had moved in with her during the last months of her life, told us some wonderful stories -- i think my favorite was the one about pauline's insistence that there be beer in her house for visitors. apparently whenever anyone asked if they could bring anything, yuengling and corona were at the top of the list.

we tried to reconstruct the narrative that always accompanied trips to SPC retreat. pauline seemed to know every landmark on the route, and always offered a steady stream of short anecdotes. there's the eighteenth-century tavern jutting out into the middle of providence road, which used to be a great place for it because it was right at the crossroads, but now it's obstructing traffic and they have to move it, isn't it amazing how time marches on, etc. there's the old pub in newtown square. there's the dupont estate, with its miles of fencing and seemingly hundreds of horses.

the meeting itself is an original building. at the beginning of every retreat pauline gave a tour, taking care to note the retractable center wall, which once divided the men from the women in the meeting, and also taking care to note that the separation was there because the meeting worried that women wouldn't get equal time if they were in with the men.

the memorial itself was very hard. i'm used to having a liturgy to lean on in times of trouble. sitting on hard benches listening to people's attempts to weep quietly for thirty minutes is...well, it's something else entirely. near the end, sara suggested that SPC students sing the taize ubi caritas, which ended every SPC meeting, and that was astounding.

after the handshake that signals the end of meeting, i went outside for a bit. the meeting is surrounded by undeveloped land; i leaned on the fence and looked out at the fields, the forest, the geese and the sunset, and remembered how peaceful i felt during walking meditations through that same landscape. last time i walked there, it was the same sort of day, and the same time of year. this time the view, which is the same two years later, almost let me imagine that when the sun set we would return to the meeting, and pauline would be there with a hug and maybe some vegan lasagna, and we would eat by candlelight and end the day singing.