Two friends, each I consider a dear sister, have written books about things that matter to me. Loretta Anne Woodward Veney, Being My Mom’s Mom: A journey through dementia from a daughter’s perspective (Infinity Publishing, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, 2012) and Susan Mann Flanders, Going To Church: It’s Not What You Think (St. Johann Press, Hayworth, New Jersey, 2014). (Regarding the first, full disclosure, I penned the Forward and served as principal editor.)
In Being My Mom’s Mom, Loretta offers a vividly detailed view of her evolving relationship with her mother Doris, stricken with dementia; a daily bond involving the role reversal of care-giving so very common to Baby Boomer-aged children for their increasingly long-lived parents. She writes with poignant passion about moments of transition and the attendant difficult decisions, engaging and uproarious humor of instances when the adage, laughter is the best medicine, is proven true, and sage counsel with detailed guides to information that people now and in generations to come have found and will find not only useful, but essential. With the advent of her book, Loretta, a person of wit and wisdom, and a vivacious presence, increasingly is in demand as a speaker on the subject of dementia and how to navigate that always uneasy, uneven path of becoming parents of our parents. With my mother, Lolita, years ago diagnosed as suffering from dementia of the Alzheimer’s-type, Loretta, again a dear sister, is a kindred spirit; one with whom I share an inherently heartrending, undesired and unchosen, yet absolutely necessary journey.
Susan is an Episcopal priest. Indeed, I am privileged to serve as rector (chief pastor) of St. Mark’s Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, where Susan was the Associate Rector some years ago. Now retired as rector of St. John’s Church, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Maryland, Susan has penned an extraordinary narrative. At its heart, Going To Church is autobiographical; Susan revealing in honest and generously personal terms her pilgrimage toward her realization of a call to ordained ministry. With the soul of a pastor and preacher, a theologian and teacher, she also offers a powerful testimonial to her progressive faith, one rooted in panentheistic soil that flowers in a belief in a God both immanent, a part of all creation and within us, and transcendent, beyond all time and space. Hers is a spirituality that is both existential, seeking meaning of life in this world, and cosmic, peering with clear-eyed vision into eternity’s far horizons, and making pertinent connections between the two. Susan, as an incisive truth-teller, is a relentless critic of all fussy, dust-laden religiosity of form without daily relevance. Yet, too, as a lover of the church, she, with a hopeful heart, offers an appealing portrait of a Christianity of spiritual and practical consequence for our post-modern era. As a bountiful bonus, Susan shares her sermon text, entitled The Will of God, based on that horrendously difficult story of Abraham’s God-ordered sacrifice of his son Isaac (Genesis 22.1-14). Here Susan, my trustworthy sister, does not perform some exegetical hocus-pocus, straining to find something, anything to make palatable that which is intellectually and spiritually inedible. Rather she sharpens our focus to behold in the story a divine challenge to greater faithfulness in our relationships with all peoples.
Loretta and Susan, my dear sisters, I salute you!