By chance yesterday I came across the following reflection by Emily Warming from 2007, when she was in a Justice and Peace Senior Seminar with Roger Bergman at Creighton University. I have been blessed and inspired by many Creighton friends, like Emily, who have been deep readers and enthused hallowers of life.
I was nervous for Mark Chmiel to come to Creighton. Mev only died a week ago for me. I was grieving and it seemed like he were coming to Creighton to help us bury her. How do we talk about this book with this man? How do we even begin to address the flash, the brilliance, the ahh! bright wings of Mev? She so radiated and resonated with us. Presente! She is with us. The book was so personal, so broken open, receptive and burning of suffering and joy, so sacred in some way. The many voices; the concrete manifestations of exhilaration, edification, frustration; the crushing grief; the inexplicable soaring of heart; the hope hope hope made this book breathe with the holy texture of life.
What to say? I feel like quoting Mev: “WHOOSH!” To be in the presence of Mark’s humble gentle spirit and great depth of wisdom so edified me. He encouraged Jessie and me so much. He validated us. He nurtured our questions. He was so patient and kind. We experienced a great depth, a great breadth of heart, mind, spirit in him. I told Jessie just after parting with Mark, “I feel like we can graduate now, like we have been set free.” He helped us get free to love, free to not know, free to let go, free to be, free to go on to the next step in this mad crazy life journey.
Meeting with him, hearing his presentation, being in his presence, sharing pumpkin bread with him during a Nebraska tornado warning was somehow the pinnacle of these final moments of my undergraduate career. I only mean to say that so much of what filled Mark’s book touched me personally—as it has for many—and…it was so natural and beautiful to have him here on the day I read the final pages of Mev and Mark’s story. I have carried the story with me all semester and to have him turn out to be real (yes, he exists! this story does breathe!) makes Mev all the more real to me—makes her lived message all the more a challenge to my own life.
Indeed, Mark has done his part to liberate me. His book and his presence have opened me to so much more to do and say and read and think and be. I will always carry their story with me: hold it all.