Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Debbie and Bud

Debbie Waldman: "We had three generations of stuff in here."

Debbie Waldmann stands outside her flood-ruined home in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood, looking at the hole in the ground where a huge water oak tree used to stand.

"We planted it when she was born, she watched it grow,’ Debbie says of the tree, planted in honor of her daughter’s Sarah’s birth nearly 16 years ago. "When she asked about what happened to our house, the first thing she wanted to know about was the tree."

After fleeing Katrina last August, the family returned to New Orleans in December. Sarah chose not to come to the house, but Debbie and husband Bud found the home had been inundated with six-and-half feet of water in the front and 10 feet in the back. The house will be bulldozed.

Debbie, a first-grade teacher at St. Paul's School, carefully guides visitors through the house. "We had three generations of stuff in here. The water came in and sat here for a month."

"This was our kitchen," she says of a room where appliances are overturned and dishes broken. Nearby, they found Sarah’s Baptism candle. "It was covered in slime, but she wanted it."

Debbie’s ministry books were toppled from shelves, along with "stuff from 28 years of kids I taught." Besides their own ruined belongings, they even found things that didn’t belong to them.

Time stood still in the kitchen August 29, 2005

Bud and Debbie have weekends to work on any salvaging they might want to do. Before the storm, he worked for state hospital in New Orleans as a psychologist. Now, he’s working in Baton Rouge, 80 miles away, getting home when he can.

They’ve been watching the neighborhood come back, but slowly. A few houses away, someone is beginning to put in a lawn, a contrast to the dust and weeds, and the single red petunia blooming on Debbie and Bud’s front lawn.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Margaret's Dream

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…plans to give you hope and a future…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29: 11,13

This was a dream so wonderful I just want to share it with you, dear friends.

I was at St. Paul's alone, doing some chore in the stripped down sacristy, wondering what I was supposed to do with the leftover consecrated wafers and wine. (Why I was even there with that is one of those non sequiturs that occur so often in dreams because we were still at St. Martin's school chapel.)

I crossed over to the sanctuary and there I saw an unblemished fair linen on the altar once again, pristine, with no stains or tears, perfectly pressed. So it occurred to me to just consume what I was holding. Then, no, that might not be what was to be done, so I turned to go back to the sacristy to try to find a place to put what I held. But where? The pacina had been ripped out. The tabernacle was gone. What to do with this holy stuff?

Then from the corner of my eye I saw there were two small crystal candle holders also on the altar (very small, I think we had some like that in the kitchen once for parish suppers). And ... the candles were lit. It seemed to be an invitation. I returned to the altar thinking again I would just consume what was left.

But as I looked up and out to the nave, a few people were coming into the area. The church was still bare and dusky. You've seen it, a cavern of concrete and brick with scarred woodwork and no pews or kneelers, no lights. But they stood there quietly, obviously expecting a Mass.

I said Will was not here, but we could worship and consume what had already been consecrated. I don't know if that was theologically sound, but it just seemed to be the right thing to do. They wanted to be fed. Then more people came. I was concerned we would not have enough. Then more. It wasn't just the old St. Paul's crowd. It was neighbors and more. Then the contractors and workers and remediators. The church was filled. And there was enough. So I guess you might say I have had my first Eucharist back at St. Paul's.

This dream has stayed with me. I wondered who were all these people. Now I realize they were not just us and our neighbors. They were you, each of you who have cared for us and blessed us with your time , talents, and treasures. It was you with whom we shared the Eucharist, the dream that St. Paul's lives.

Love and blessings, Margaret

Margaret E. Kirn is the Junior Warden at St. Paul's, New Orleans
And chair of St. Paul's Restoration Fund
P.O. Box 56297
Metairai, LA 70055-6297