Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Protestant at Mass

A seminary friend of mine, unfamiliar with monastic practice until last fall, questioned the usefulness of people who spend much of their largely sequestered lives in prayer. Utility is sometimes, in Protestant venues, defined in a rather limited way. As my readers know, I consider it a great gift of God in my life that both Catholic and Protestant worlds are accessible to me. My participation in one or the other is frequently marked by some discomfort -- I am always aware of what is "missing" or different -- but I suppose that that is a small price to pay for the grace of versatility, and for doors that are opened more often than they are closed.


The Carmelite chapel, its spare contemporary architecture almost devoid of decoration, is about half full when I arrive at the last minute, almost blown in the door by a bitter fall wind at the end of the day. I slip into my usual place on the far side, where I have been hiding out these past weeks. I had not realized until this terrible event in our lives occurred that there is no place in our usual church services for those whose days and nights are enveloped in grief. Our worship, albeit usually traditional and even stately, bespeaks energy, joy, life -- and crowds out those whose endurance does not extend that far. The Carmelites are filled with a gentle sense of peace, and offer a spiritual space that encompasses people in all states of being.

I note that in the opening hymn the congregation, mostly Carmelite nuns and people my age or older, sings the word "God" whenever the word "He" is printed in the hymnal. And then I am startled by the immediate appearance of the priest, wearing bright red vestments. Why red in October, I wonder? The color really stands out on this dreary day. "The Lord be with you," he says. "And also with you," we respond. He is young, and earnest, and hopeful, and sweet. He reminds us that it is the feast day of Saints Simon and Jude. That doesn't mean much to me, but I reflect on how I have wished, more often lately than usual, that we Protestants had not abandoned attentiveness to saints. I am much in need of role models these days, and grateful for my knowledge of the medieval women mystics, women whose encounter with the presence of God was not diminshed by hardship and loss.

The mass proceeds. One of the Carmelites reads the epistle lesson, and she and another of her sisters sing the responsive refrain to the psalm so that the congregation can follow along. One of the most striking things to me, as I have attended these and other masses, has been the lack of Bibles in the pews and the lack of information on the readings in the bulletins. It seems odd to me that Scripture is read and sung without citations or texts being provided. And also difficult -- I am much more visual than auditory, and so I am considerably hampered in my attentiveness with nothing in front of me with which to connect. When I mentioned this to a friend last week-end, she told me that her priest believes that the Word should be proclaimed and the congregation should listen. All well and good for those of us who are natural listeners, I suppose. Those of us who are not are somewhat deprived.

When the priest reads the gospel passage I am in better shape, having already spent considerable time with it earlier in the day. And he does a nice job of delivering a carefully considered homily. The text is the Lucan call of the disciples, an episode of some relevance to me personally, as I try to discern in the wake of disaster whether my call to ministry has been completely eradicated. The priest's thesis is that the twelve whom Jesus calls could not possibly meet any contemporary management guru's idea of a stellar corporate team. They are, instead, "extravagantly flawed" individuals. As extravagantly as I am? I wonder. I also catch in passing that this priest always uses the pronoun "He" when he refers to God. I still like him. His love for God is all over his face.

We move on to the eucharistic portion of the service. I drift in and out of awareness at this point; I can never keep track of the order, I have to remember not to say the Protestant ending of the Lord's Prayer out loud, and I can't participate anyway. Sometimes I spend these minutes in an internal consideration of the various Protestant attitudes and beliefs with respect to Communion, but today I don't feel particularly analytical. I just wait for the actual distribution, when I can sit quietly and open my heart to God. I am extremely grateful for this interlude of five or so minutes of peace in the presence of others who are praying at a time when my own capacity to listen for God is considerably diminished.

When the mass is over, I step to the back of the chapel to look out the huge windows at the walled garden courtyard behind the monastery. I had not noticed it before; it's beautiful, even in what has now become something like sleet. As I walk back through the chapel toward the doors, a couple of the sisters stop to hug me and thank me for coming. They have probably forgotten my name, but they know what has happened and why I am there, and they always thank me for joining them. I am, as always, so touched by their gentle and unobtrusive acceptance that I cannot manage my own words of gratitude.


"Useful" seems such a crass word in these circumstances. I would argue that gracious, and loving, and generous, apply. Words that one might apply to Jesus.

Stolen Goods (Eight Weeks)

We've lost our son. Two people dear to me have recently been diagnosed with cancer, and one has made relationship decisions that have significant and difficult ramifications for me.


Of course, my protests do not make things stop.

I wander around, looking for signs of possibility. Here are a few I've picked up along the way:

"Despair is a loss of our sense of connectedness."

~ David Richo
~ found on Spiritually Directed

"I am increasingly convinced that the word prayer, which has become a functional and pious thing for all believers to do, is in fact, a descriptor for inner experience. That is why all spiritual teachers mandate prayer so much. They are saying, "Go inside and know for yourself!". . . . As Jesus graphically puts it, prayer is 'going to your private room and shutting the door and [acting] in secret.' (Matthew 6:16)"

~ Richard Rohr in Hidden Things: Scripture as Spirituality
~ found on Purpletologically Speaking

Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It's a way of living in the Presence, living in awareness of the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence.The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it. All spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present. These disciplines exist so that we can see what is, see who we are, and see what is happening.

~ Richard Rohr in Everything Belongs
~ found on The Mercy Blog

It's difficult to be present these days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Thank You, via Willamette Unversity

I am extremely fond of beautiful Willamette University, where the Lovely Daughter is a senior. Recently named one of the best urban walks in Oregon, the campus boasts magnificent sequoias, numerous gardens, and a small stream running through the center:

One of my favorite Willamette places is the rose garden on State Street, just across from the capital building. As I wandered there ten days ago, I thought of my new blogging friend ~ master gardener, gifted teacher, Ignatian co-conspirator, and artist ~ who had sent me a handcrafted stained glass piece as an offer of consolation in this bleak time. If the winter light around here ever co-operates, I'll post a photograph. In the meantime, images of roses in gratitude for a gift of light:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oregon Coast

The week-end brought other pieces of news, either of which under more usual life circumstances would have sent me reeling far from any sense of repose.

Herewith, in response, views of the ocean which, I have been gently reminded, is the one whose name means peace.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Silver Falls State Park - Magis

If you are inclined to pay attention to St.Ignatius, you'll get the magis. If not, let's just say that in the fall it seems that the earth always offers more.

And, to my personal way of thinking, the moss-encased branches so prevalent in Oregon seem to belong to a stage set for Wicked. One expects to see Elphaba behind every tree trunk.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Silver Falls State Park - Photo Petite

South Falls
October 2008

When we were in Oregon last week-end, we took The Lovely Daughter and one of her friends (one of her lifelong best friends from home, who also attends college out there) to Silver Falls State Park for a little waterfall walk.

The Oregon rain forest is a lot like the North Carolina rain forest, except that the Oregon trees are a LOT bigger than any tree anywhere in North Carolina.

(Apparently the technology of BIG PICTURES remains beyond me. I gave it a couple of hours this afternoon and it looks like I need a couple of weeks. Eventually, I suppose. In the meantime, this one enlarges nicely with a click.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Little Break - of Sorts

One of the wiser things I've read in the past weeks suggests permitting yourself to take a break from grief, noting that we takes breaks from everything else and we need to get away from grieving on occasion, too. True enough. At various points in my working and student life, when the onslaught of expectations has seemed overwhelming, I've made detailed calendars in an effort to find some solace in the light at the end of the tunnel. Only on rare occasions have those calendars, identifying multiple tasks to be accomplished in every part of every day, represented a span as long as fourteen consecutive days in duration. This time, there will never be a light at the end of the tunnel, and we have put only fifty-one days behind us. Fifty-one days of unremitting pain.

So, I am going to take a little break, which I am sure will unleash sighs of relief among my readers. It won't be a 100% break - not matter what I say or do, whom I encounter, or how I pass my time, there is only one underlying reality, and it has a way of popping up. But I will try to limit it to those natural appearances.

And so ~

One of my frustrations with blogger has been the impossibility of posting BIG PICTURES, which were so much fun during my AOL Journal days. I'm not much of a technie, and I've never been able to figure out how to do it over here. But with the imminent demise of AOL Journals, a number of bloggers have made their way over here, and one of them, to my delight, is my former mentor and technophile buddy, Sunflower Kat of
Walk with Me. Her photography is often wondrous, and in no time flat she mastered the BIG PICTURE blogger conundrum. I have her instructions, I have her email, and I have 100 photographs from Oregon. So I'm going to play around for a few days and try to enjoy myself a little. There won't be much writing, and what there is will still reflect the sense of loss that never recedes, but I'm hoping that some of the images will work out.

And ~

In the category of Life Goes On, Gregarious Son and I voted today. With about 75 people ahead of us (lunchtime at the downtown Board of Elections), it took about half an hour, but that was about half the time it took four years ago at our local polling place, the church on the corner, at 7:00 am with maybe 15 people in line. The poll workers were gracious and efficient, the voters were relaxed and even jovial, and it has now been my pleasure to cast two historic votes this year.

And ~

I went back to my spiritual direction training program this week. It only meets once a month this year, so I have an idea that it might be manageable. It was an extremely difficult few hours, with a couple of conversations that nearly sent me over the edge, but I had done the reading and written the paper and I did not start to cry and I did not need to excuse myself. I also signed up for seminary classes, only because this is the week that that had to be done. I have no idea what, if anything, is possible there. Emails from professors have been generous and encouraging, but due to the quarter system, the unfortunate reality is that those classes begin in only six weeks and the first weeks lie right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, two holidays I would just as soon not acknowledge this year. Or maybe ever. (Yes, somewhat problematic in ministry.) I will probably return for the first week of classes and see how it goes. I am not overly optimistic and I know that my life has changed in ways that are not remotely apparent to me yet. We'll see.

And, finally ~

In an effort to be positive rather than negative, I have some advice about what to say to the newly bereaved when you run into us, rather than what not so say. (Oh, that second list lengthens every day!) It's pretty simple. "How is your morning/afternoon/evening going?" If I think that you care enough to ask a specific question and I think that you might actually be interested, I might be able to respond with something equally specific, and it will be a big help to me. And if all I can manage is, "Really sh--ty," that's a big help to me, too. Just so you know.

So ~ some messing around on the blog and maybe some BIG PICTURES coming up soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

"Easy for him to say, hard for you to do," said the funeral home director when we told him that our son had indicated a wish for his ashes to be scattered, and then tried to convince us, albeit with restraint, that an elaborate urn placed in one of the cemetery's glass cases in the new mausoleum was the way to go. My father has also said that he wants to be cremated and for his ashes to be scattered, and has been specific as to the locale. When that time comes, I will be better prepared for funeral industry resistance.

Oh, what to do with these bodies of ours when they are no longer animated by soul and spirit, by hope and sorrow? During my summer CPE at Gigantic Hospital, I observed bodies of every size, color, age, and condition, often praying over them as family members clung to each other, and sometimes praying over them in solitude because no one from the family had shown up, or because they had been unable to bear the solid certainty of loss any longer and had left the hospital swiftly and in silence. But I did not have to perform the subsequent tasks of the nurses, or make the next plans with the families.

In my own family, closed caskets have been the rule. There has been a general undercurrent of agreement to "remember them as they lived," and so I saw none of my grandparents, nor my aunt, mother, brother, or first stepmother after they died. My mother and brother were buried while I was still in the hospital recovering from the car accident; I'm not sure that I even knew of their deaths before they were in the ground. Only with my last stepmother, and only because I was holding her hand when she died, was I able to spend time in her presence afterward, absorbing her transition to someplace unknown to us.

In none of these situations did I have to make any decisions about what came next. At the hospital, people took their heartbreak and their mourning out the door with them. In my family of origin, my father has usually been the one to direct the events of the week after a death, and has countenanced little in the way of participation of others. Only with my grandmother, to whom I was especially close and who died a couple of years ago, was I able to insist upon something of my own vision of a memorial service, none of which applied to the care or disposition of her body.

I have tried to do things differently. Following the magnificent guidance provided by the wife of one of my patients this past summer, who with gentle authority and great love gathered her family of siblings and adult children and spouses for major decisions and for the final difficult hours of her husband's life, I brought three generations of us together to plan our son's memorial service, and ensured that the Quiet Husband and I involved our children in every decision about our son's remains. We were also graced by the presence of many friends who had recent stories to share over the kitchen table about bodies, funeral homes, cremations, cemeteries, and the scattering of ashes -- all in gentle, generous, and sometimes humorous conversations in which everyone seemed to intuit the wisdom that we each have different needs and expectations and desires with respect to what finally happens to the bodies of those we love.

To give the funeral home director his due, I believe that he was more interested in protecting us than in selling urns when he told us that scattering ashes would be difficult to do. (A few weeks later he was most helpful in answering all the related questions about practical issues.) Many people in our death-resistant culture accept the handling of its processes by the experts, believing that it may be easier to force its tangibility out of their minds than to acknowledge it for what it is. And while I personally am not so inclined, preferring always to see and hear and touch for myself, who can blame them? The confrontation with the physicality of death, with its insistence on the completeness and finality of the breach it creates, is difficult. But it is also the reality.

And so last week I waded into the Pacific, off a coast which our son had never reached in his short lifetime of great adventures, and scattered some of his ashes onto the gentle swells of water. It was in the end not so hard to do, for, in the words of Isak Dineson that one of of my friends used to share with us, "The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea."

As it turns out, she was not entirely accurate. There are some things for which there is no cure. But for those, the ocean offers its embrace and, sometimes, the sparkle of sunlight across its surface.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Here and Eternity

How many children do you have?

An ordinary, run-of-the-mill, small talk question, repeated over and over again as a natural part of daily life, bearing the potential for endlessly rolling waves of pain.

At my niece's wedding two weeks ago, my brother introduced me to friends. "This is my sister and these are her children." No No No, I wanted to scream. These are TWO of my children. These are TWO-THIRDS of my children.

But. One does not sink onto the floor and wail at a wedding reception.

My son . . . one of my sons . . . my surviving son . . . says that he catches himself constantly. So many of his stories begin with the words, "My brother and I . . .". But as he begins to speak he realizes that he does not want to go there, not with new acquaintances. He especially does not want to field the questions that have always been addressed to him as a twin.

Who am I, without all of my children? I could describe myself in any number of ways, but what do I care? There is only one irrevocable part of my identity, and it has been shattered almost beyond recognition.

And so. Tomorrow the Quiet Husband and I head for Oregon to visit The Lovely Daughter. Gregarious Son goes to New York City for a much needed break with friends. And Chicago Son is somewhere else. With us but not with us.

We have always been a travelling family. We have all spent a lot of time separated from one another, often across two continents. But cell phones and emails and airplanes and our love for each other shortened the distances.

It doesn't work like that anymore. I am always in two places now. In this world, with two of my children. And somewhere else, where my heart is full of the one who is not here at all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Six Weeks: Suddenly I Have Things To Say

I have been thinking a lot about Psalm 88 in the context of preaching. I can see why it doesn't pop to the top of the list of homiletical text choices. The majority of sermons I've heard in my life have been of the exhortative variety, and it's difficult to imagine sending a congregaton off with the admonishment to walk in darkness.

But there's another way. It was when I first heard Barbara Brown Taylor's evocative sermons (at Chautauqua, where she has preached many times) that it dawned on me that I might be a preacher. How well I remember that stunned realization almost literally spreading through and warming my entire self: if that's what preaching can be, then maybe I am...?

It took me a very long time to get out of bed yesterday. I won't admit to how long. But once I had achieved that most monumental of tasks, which is exactly what it is during a time of profound grief, and had taken a shower, I called the director of my spiritual direction training program, who happened to be free, and drove over to the university to see her. We spent about an hour reflecting on our family's loss, on my situation, and on what I might do about returning to seminary and about returning to the spiritual direction program. Seminary is more than two hours away and my return is going to require some planning (although the administration and professors have been generously willing to go the extra mile in accomodating my needs). The spiritual direction program is right here, but this year entails a practicum and I am not about to attempt that at the moment. We concluded that I would go to this month's class next week and we would think about the practicum in a few months.

The director mentioned a difficult period in her own life and noted how grateful she had been at that time for work, for college and graduate classes to prepare and teach. "I know this loss is different," she said, "and I know that it will never not be with you, that it changes who you are, and that 'distraction' is not really the word that you are looking for." I responded by talking of one of the aspects of grief we all know about intellectually but still cannot overcome when we are personally affected: that everytime you do or think about something else, you feel that you have betrayed the person who is gone. "Somehow," I said, " if I am going to have any kind of a life again, I find to find a way to hold the two in balance: the life and work that go on, and the vast ocean of loss and sorrow that accompany them."

As I left, I thought about Pslam 88. The balance involves learning to live in a way in which ordinary tasks and events, laughter and frustrations, are intricately woven into the fabric of darkness. If I were to depict this balance in a quilt, it would be one in which patches in all shapes and shades of black were sewn together with threads of all colors, some of them even shiny and sparkly. A quilt on which you could stretch out on the grass in the sunshine, a quilt in which you could roll around and curl up in the darkness of a stormy day, a quilt which you could hang on the wall and gaze upon as you pray to embrace and live out both darkness and light.

Cynthia, whose husband died last spring,
wrote yesterday about those events of life from which everything else streams as "befores" and "afters." I wrote about those events once; I can't remember whether my words were here or in a sermon, but I know that I said that the things that we think constitute such markers -- the long-planned for graduations, weddings, and births -- tend not to be nearly as significant in terms of interior transformation as those which are unplanned, sudden, and cataclysmic. Those other, expected events - they change your status. The catastrophes change your very being.

Cynthia acknowledeges that it is too soon to know where this phase of life will take her. I commented that yet another, seldom-mentioned, aspect of loss is the coming to terms with the reality that we are now someone else, not by choice, and learning to be that person.

And so. Psalm 88. Those words of the psalmist -- full of trouble, overwhemed, engulfed -- those are the ones I am looking for. I am learning to live as a different person. Gingerly and tentatively. But I am learning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Psalm 88

We have been to Chicago to empty our son's apartment.

We have taken the first steps to open an estate. For our child.

I have wished many times over the past week that I had gotten to know my mother's mother better than I did. For the usual complex assortment of factors that affect family dynamics, although not for want of trying on their part, my brother and I never had the same depth of connection with our maternal grandparents that we did with my father's parents. Now, for my own selfish reasons, I am so sorry that I did not have more of a relationship with the grandmother whose daughter died at 28. I want to know what those first weeks and months were like for her. I want to know what the rest of her life without her beloved daughter was like for her.

Psalm 88 is the only one that applies. I have been interested to discover how many of its readers are puzzled, alarmed even, by its utter bleakness, its complete unwillingness to resolve itself in solace or praise. It does not even merit a mention in Textweek, which offers resources and commentaries that go almost all the way back to the beginnings of Christianity, as a possible preaching text. Apparently our own 21st century western culture is not unique in its reluctance to stare unreservedly into the abyss of darkness.

Only one psalm out of 150 speaks to this time. I know that I am going to begin to cycle through some of the other psalms of lament soon, the ones that do end in expressions of hope. But thank God that there is one to which to turn when the authenticity and power of unrelieved anguish is called for.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Five Weeks Almost

Ansel Adams

I'm worn out. I looked up synonyms for "depleted." Drained, sapped, impoverished, bankrupted. They all apply.

We went to a family wedding this past week-end, a beautiful event that went off without a hitch and was surely one of the most difficult celebrations I have ever endured.

I have to do some very much harder things in the next two weeks.

And somehow, as Lisa says, I have to continue to place one foot in front of another on the journey that goes from here to the new way of carrying it all.

For now,

I can't write publicly anymore. Cynthia says there is no comfort. And it is becoming impossible to describe a geography where the terrain is so desolate and the silence so immense.

I will let some of Mary Oliver's words, written after the death of her partner of many years, open the door to my hiatus. I am nowhere near the final verses that speak of laughter and admiration. Maybe someday. I am, I suppose, practicing.



~ by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among the lions),
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it --
books, bricks, grief --
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled --
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love to which there is no reply?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Hereafter

I've been thinking a lot about a woman I met early in my CPE program this past summer. Privacy considerations preclude me from providing many details, but I can say that I was called for a withdrawal of care (life support), that the initial phone call gave me the impression that the family had made the decision, and that that impression was far from accurate.

The final decision involved most of my afternoon and much of the evening of the on-call chaplain, and included a consultation with a Catholic colleague who carried around a little book outlining the Catholic position on extraordinary life support measures and the cessation of same.

At one point the anguished woman asked me whether I believed in heaven. "I do," I said.

"What is it like?" she asked, with that intensity that you only encounter in these situations, an intensity that demands absolute honesty.

"I don't know," I said.

I am not consoled by a belief that we will meet our loved ones in heaven, that life there will somehow maximize the good things of life here. (It seems that C.S. Lewis and I are in agreement on this one -- he mentions cigars as a would-be desirable feature.) I am not by any means a Biblical inerrantist, but I tend to believe that when the Bible says we shall be changed, it means that we shall be changed in a way we cannot imagine as long as we are still here.

I was intrigued when I spent an afternoon summer before last walking in the cemetery behind the Glasgow Cathedral and picked up a guidebook, from which I learned that the great cemeteries founded in the second half of the 19th century (like the one in which I walk at home) were designed on the basis of a fairly new-at-that-time development of sentiment surrounding death. The park-like atmosphere was meant to foster opportunities to "visit with" the dead, and certainly many people continue to derive great comfort from the sense that they are doing just that.

And maybe they are.

I don't know.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gratitude, Burnoff, and Confusion

1. I don't know to whom I should be more grateful: Sarah Palin or Tina Fey. Or perhaps the Russians, the ten or twelve of them surveyed by Alaskans gazing across the water every morning before breakfast. Whomever -- I'm just thankful for anyone who can give me a moment of laughter.

2. Many, many, pre-child years ago, the Quiet Husband and I went backpacking a couple of times on Isle Royale, a national park island in Lake Superior above the U.P. Because of time constraints, we went back and forth via float plane rather than ferry. The plane from the mainland in Houghton, Michigan to Isle Royale's Rockport Harbor always seemed an iffy proposition -- you'd wake up in the early morning to a town blanketed by fog, and listen to the locals' breakfast reassurance that "it'll burn off soon." Which it did.

I have had, over the past couple of days, a few short periods of my own burnoff. The fog that has enshrouded me lifts for 20, 30 minutes at a time, and my mind functions with clarity. It feels good. It feels like me. It doesn't last, and the ensuing fog is as thick and impermeable as before, but it offers a sense of hope.

3. When I began seminary last year, it was with a great deal of trepidation, which only increased over the first several days as numerous young students told me with great confidence that they knew they were following God's will by the ease with which things had fallen into place for them -- money, jobs, housing. It wasn't until I began to meet the students of my generation that I found peers whose experience mirrored my own -- students struggling to manage their own tuition and that of their college-age children, students quitting or changing employment, students making challenging commutes, students transforming or dismantling well-established lives to undertake seminary educations.

So no, I was never in the group of people who felt able to evaluate their calls to ministry on the basis of the ease with which they were unfolding. But the death of my child? Off the charts.

I have no idea what to think or how to proceed.


I have known, for almost all of my life, that people, no matter how beautiful, how gifted, how beloved, vanish. That the universe is a hazardous and uncertain place.

October 1960. I am seven. My mother and brother are gone.

October 2008. I am fifty-five. My son is gone.

Baring war, holocaust, or natural disaster, what are the chances?

Perhaps I am intended to uncover a new solidarity with survivors of the foregoing: war, etc.

But I can be forgiven, I think, for at the moment anticipating the future with little more than dread.