He was focused, steady, concerned
I was standing with Pete Mosher
On South Grand by SLU in 2001
Condemning US sanctions on Iraq
As cars and pedestrians go by
Wednesday 19 September
A sunny day
Sitting outside together
We discuss the future—
The quixotic quest for balance in this topsy-turvy world
You ask me if I am happy
And it arises in me
That you and I—compared to much of the world—
Are in paradise
We walk to the café—
No crutches, our limbs intact
We behold each other—
No blindness, our eyes full
We talk amid the calm
No backdrop of violence, we are at ease
It’s an ordinary moment
Such that we can take these moments for granted
One after the other
So that much of the time
We don’t even savor such moments
And I couldn’t say I was happy
If I was missing out on those moments
In The Brothers Karamazov
Seventeen-year-old Markel says to his mother as he nears death:
“Mama, do not weep,
Life is paradise,
And we are all in paradise,
But we do not want to know it,
And if we did want to know it,
Tomorrow there would be paradise the world over”
We both may laugh at the thought
That paradise is all around us and shimmering
As we sit outside at Kaldi’s
At Maryville University
Yep, that’s what the young Russian sage says
But he also says to his mother
“Each of us is guilty
In everything before everyone,
And I most of all”
You want an existential challenge
Of the highest order?
Great—then hold together
Our access to paradise
And our guilt in everything before everyone
And I most of all
The point is to recognize paradise
The point is to be responsible
The point is to remember the non-paradises
We as Americans are responsible for
Name a country
Say, Iran, where you have family
You know the history of the U.S. support
For the shah’s torture regime
You know that the U.S. has created zones
Of anti-paradises, those infernos across the planet
I think the heart of The Book of Mev—
The heart of Mev—
Is the juxtaposition of those two chapters
George Steiner asking, given the infernos,
“How can we sit still?”
Thich Nhat Hanh affirming,
“Don’t just do something,
Sit there and be aware
Of the miracle of this moment”
Not sitting still
Sufrimiento tan grande
So, Layla, this aspiration:
May we hold it all
At RISE Coffee
After visiting with Z Gorley, I saw Eileen who had recently moved from Cincinnati to live down the street from Joanie and me at the Aventura on Chouteau Avenue. Pete was hoping to receive a new lung through Barnes, but there were others on the list before him. We chatted a bit, when she mentioned, “I only brought three books with me from home. One is The Book of Mev. I try not to let Pete see me reading it.” The epigraph from Kerouac for part one was “Be in love with yr life.” And so Pete and Eileen were.
The Brothers K is 800 pages. May be best to meet every three weeks for 200 pages a meeting. Or less, you really have to be committed to read this book! Once with the Catholic Workers we read a section a month, for 12 months.
And I will see about offering a fun class next semester in the middle of the week during the day if you help invite people.
It will be a delight to sit with you in a circle!
More Follow-up for The Brothers K
by Pete Mosher
Mark, thank you for sharing. Ellen, I look forward to meeting you next time. As follow-up on three things I mentioned Friday:
1. John, the story of your train ride into conjured up the magic realism of the short story “El Sur” by Borges. Here it is in Spanish and an English translation. .
I’m glad the end of your journey with the coughing Amtrak vagabond ended differently from Borges’ protagonist’s.
2. I remembered the “other place” I had encountered a character named Zosima: Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness. Guess I will need to re-read her book for the fourth or fifth time – better appreciating the context of The Brothers K this time around.
3. Finally, if so inclined to follow more than the 7-minute version of my family’s journey (back) to St. Louis, here is the blog I am writing (with occasional entries by my lovely wife, Eileen).
Looking forward to our next time together.
by Pete Mosher
A wife who remains ever-faithful and strong in sickness instead of health. Children who can’t wait to ride bikes, climb trees and run around with their Daddy.
58 birthday cards (and five dozen holy cookies) awaiting our daughter on her birthday. Family driving six hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.
140 financial donors giving over $27,000 to support our family. A second city that we know like home.
Reconnecting with dear friends and their growing families that time and distance had nudged away. Texts, emails, phone calls or Facebook PMs just to say “Hi” (even if they aren’t always returned).
Two faith communities where we belong and are supported. A reading group (Russian literature, Dostoevsky) that is stretching me cognitively, emotionally and spiritually.
A career and an employer that allow me the dignity of meaningful work away from home. Insurance that covers quite a bit of my care and (so far) has treated me like a person and a patient more than a number and an actuarial statistic.
Skilled and caring professions making medical miracles every day. 14,013 organ donors and families that gave the gift of life last year.
A generous person and family who may be making that decision right now.
One breath, then another, another, and another.
Thank you for being real In an unreal time
Is it Death breathing down your neck
Or just another terrifying episode in the ER
1/8th step forward
40 meters back
You sent me the Facebook message early this morning
And responded throughout the day
To my text messages
Then at Sasha’s at 5 p.m.
Just as John, Cab, and I were talking about Dostoevsky
You phoned me
And told me how upset, exhausted, undone you were
Up all night and at the hospital
I felt singled out
That you would share all of that
You must know I’ll receive and accept everything you say
Our lives converging in more ways than one
Send someone to get me
All there is Is this (shitty) present moment
The long road ahead
Full of moments
Heart-rending and awesome
An Unbelievable Outgoingness of Heart
In the 90 minutes
After Pete was coded
Eileen said to me
In the ICU at Barnes Jewish Hospital
“I’m so sorry you have to see all this”
So Would We
“Where did you take him? Where did you take him?” the mad woman screamed in a rending voice.
And then Ninochka also started sobbing.
Kolya ran out of the room, the boys started going out after him. Finally Alyosha also went out after them.
“Let them cry it through,” he said to Kolya, “of course there’s no use trying to comfort them now. Let’s wait a minute then go back.”
“No, there’s no use, it’s terrible,” Kolya agreed. “You know, Karamazov,” he suddenly lowered his voice so that no one could hear, “I feel very sad, and if it were only possible to resurrect him, I’d give everything in the world!”
“Ah, so would I,” said Alyosha.
—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
On Saturday a young friend of mine, Pete, died in Barnes Jewish Hospital’s ICU. I was with his wife, Eileen, when it happened. He was 32, she is 31. They have two young kids. Took my class in 2001, 2002. I am going out with her and another friend from those SLU days in a couple of hours, I’ll see how she is. The funeral will be in Cincinnati, where they are from. They came here because Pete had a lung disease and was on the wait list at Barnes for a lung transplant.
Pete was in The Brothers Karamazov group with Tony and me.
It’s been a wretched time. The person I was with yesterday, Lucy, is a oncology nurse at Cardinal Glennon’s. I needed to talk to someone who knew that world of suffering and death.
Thanks for writing, Josh. You and Laura are the dearest of the dear.
Eileen Sends Me a Message at 4 a.m.
“I finished the obituary.”
Mev Puleo Died at age 32
May her memory be a provocation: Look around!
Dan Horkheimer Died at age 29
May his memory be an inspiration: Tend our gardens!
Pete Mosher Died at age 32
May his memory be a clap-clap: Wake up!
This page is part of my book, Dear Love of Comrades, which you can read here.