Sunday 15th September 2019

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Lifting Boxes To Release Souls . . . The Burden Of Possessions Includes Filling The Moving Van

September 11, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


PHOENIX — Molly’s treasures on Earth were even lighter than her thin frame in well-worn clothing.
She approached me for the first time a few years ago, a complete stranger, as I prayed in church after daily Mass. Molly (a pseudonym I’m supplying for a very real person) just wanted to have a spiritual chat. She returned on another day. Around the third time, she recommended a certain pamphlet of prayers to read.
Molly was an older woman who, she went on to tell me, just lived out of her banged-up pickup truck, which I later saw in the church parking lot. She didn’t ask for money, although she apparently had little to her name.
She truly acted as if God would take care of what needed caring for. Molly talked about washing her hair under a hose and sleeping in the truck — not as any sort of complaint or rebuke to society for her circumstances, just a description of her humble doings.
As I recall, she once accepted a few dollars from me, but never requested a handout. She seemed to know of any charitable resources she could call upon if she thought she needed assistance.
She’d drive around this metropolitan area, stopping for the night here or there. I was concerned about her safety as an older single woman out on her own, but she lived life as it came to her. Molly would drop into my life at church and then drop out of sight.
She had an elderly mother in the Midwest but preferred to go her own way.
After I hadn’t seen Molly for some months and was concerned about her welfare, she popped up at church again. Oh, she said, she decided to drive to Florida, then came back here. Which, of course, meant crossing nearly the entire southern U.S. from west to east and then back.
One day Molly out in the church parking lot showed me her new doggie, which I’ll give the pseudonym of Lizzie — a fuzzy little white pooch on a leash who seemed to greet the new day with delight. Lizzie had one of those cute little pink tongues and clearly seemed to love being with Molly.
God was Father to Molly, but her lonely life in the truck seemed blessed by the love of a doggie, whom Molly exercised by walking along the sidewalk outside the parking lot.
One day I didn’t see Lizzie. Molly commented that it nearly killed her to have to give Lizzie away, but life in a pickup truck wasn’t right for a doggie.
It has been more than a year since I saw Molly. That day she called out to me in the parking lot next to her banged-up truck as I was stepping along for Saturday evening anticipatory Mass. This was uncommon timing for her. She usually popped up after daily morning Mass.
I went over to her but said I didn’t have much time at the moment to talk. She didn’t refer to having pending travel plans, but did mention that she wasn’t Catholic, which certainly came as a surprise to me.
I’d never noticed her receiving Communion at daily Mass, so simply stopping by church is time spent that’s available to anyone. She would come up from behind me after Mass was over.
I wanted to know more, and she didn’t say it might be some time before she’d return, but that was more than a year ago, and I’m concerned once more.
Sometimes when a person drops into your life mysteriously then departs, you might think of the passage from Hebrews about entertaining angels unawares, about doing a kindness to someone who actually doesn’t need it because this spiritual being already serves in Heaven.
One unspoken lesson from Molly, but addressed on various pages of the Bible, is that stacking up treasures on Earth makes one no more powerful or blessed when having to account before God for the now-ended, plucked-away life from below. “No pockets in a shroud,” as one maxim says.
The more possessions one has, the more it may seem that they own you rather than you own them. And not merely ostentatious acquisitions but also the drawers and closets full of the daily accumulations of existence. I bore that burden during a recent — and rare for me — residential move.
Not boxes of gold or cartons of silver, but old clothes, magazines, newspapers, religious items, furniture, reams of records, relatives’ correspondence, tools for inside and outside the house, Christmas decorations, a model-train set. The list is longer than the tracks for that train and perhaps winds out of sight around the papier-maché mountain.
Here’s a letter in my father’s bold handwriting on behalf of my little sister and me when I was five years old to Santa Claus. It even has a special-delivery stamp on the envelope, but somehow didn’t get mailed. Dad died of a cerebral aneurysm when I was 12. Here are notes Mom had made to herself about daily newscasts and appointments.
Molly’s pickup truck would have looked small inside the size of the moving van that drove what was left of my worldly things to a downsized new residence here in Phoenix after my lengthy efforts at sorting, thinning, donating, and discarding.
This was what had accumulated in a three-bedroom home that had been under the Duggan family name for more than 60 years — well more than a half-century.
As crunch time drew closer for the move, I actually wasn’t able to write a little of my regular offerings for The Wanderer. That’s how serious the crunch was — I, who otherwise still might be up writing at 5 a.m. if needed to make a deadline, or start writing for six hours after putting in a 14-hour day already.
Moving, as many have learned, isn’t simply a matter of finding a company in a listing and arranging for the day, but being a superintendent of a major operation that was less than Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s assignment at Normandy, but far, far more than doing the weekly or monthly grocery shopping or shipping, as the case may be.
Some of my moving decisions in fact were dictated by the accumulation, like seeking a two-car garage for one-car me. Unlike Molly, who could drive thousands of miles as she deemed appropriate, it took me many months just to get ready to go a few miles.
I even found out what oranges cost at the grocery store. I’d always picked my own for free off citrus trees in the old yard. Except for the cost of watering the trees.
Cupidity hadn’t caused my problems. Just one example: The discovery that a deceased relative had decades’ worth of old utility bills and paperwork in sacks in closets around the old house — not as a result of hoarding or other obsession, but just that once the bag was stuck away, it was forgotten.
So it wasn’t quite a case of being the rich man who thought he had many years to enjoy his overflowing possessions but was rebuked by God for being a “fool” who would have to pass over to the next life that very night. “Now who will own what you have prepared?”
Frankly, the dumpster can swallow all of the old utility bills it wants.
And Americans who’d disdain possessions themselves as unbiblical would cause severe disruptions to a capitalist system that has helped lift so many from poverty.
The beautiful woman’s white high-heeled shoes with pastel designs found in a box were a testament to capitalist craftsmanship from decades ago, but I knew nothing of their owner or significance, so out they went.
I probably felt like Molly giving up Lizzie when I was surprised to discover an old model-train set that I loved when I was about ten years old. Look at those beautiful, sleek aluminum-style passenger cars and freight-hauling equipment. But you can’t keep everything. Some decisions are hard. Hard and painful even when ten years of age has long passed.
I’d thanked God that all my carrying and heaving hadn’t sprained anything during the move. But, unpacking the fourth box at my new place, I hurt my right leg and hip a bit, so they’re needing some rest.
“Offer it up”? Sure. And some “mercy rosaries” for healing have helped.
I figured I’d already released 30,000 souls from Purgatory — or would you believe 300? — during these wearying, frustrating moving-time sacrifices.
Now there’s a way that the “possessioned” can do a spiritual good unavailable to those who travel more lightly.

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