Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rest in Peace

My gentle cousin John, son of my beloved Aunt Sis and Uncle Sis (who himself died a week or so ago), has died.  I hadn't seen him in years, mainly because he was a monk in France.  But I have been hearing stories about him all my life.  He is almost a mythic figure, because . . . .

  • As a teenager, he kept a huge Python in bathtub.  For years.  I think he finally gave it to a zoo.
  • He was 6'7" and blond, with a tan and easy smile, and that long thin nose and high forehead from my dad's side of the family
  • In high school, he took Latin-- our grandad, who valued learning but didn't have much schooling, was so proud
  • He could juggle--balls, pins, who knows what all.  And he taught me.  He would juggle with friends in Breckenridge Park on weekends and my aunt would take me to watch.

  • I think he played basketball for his high school team (I seem to recall there was a photo in a local paper.)
  • He had a soft voice and laugh and would say "now, now" just like his mom.
  • I saw him most during the years I spent in San Antonio for counseling at summer camp and then school.  He even drove me home from camp one year and we had a wonderful conversation.
  • He went to Pepperdine and illustrated the cover of the college magazine.  It was a play between a photograph and a drawing, with an easel on it.  His parents were so proud.
  • After college, he worked as a construction worker in SF for awhile.
  • Then he apparently rode the rails (illegally) across the US a few times, like a true hobo.
  • At some point, he took classical sculpting from a teacher in Italy and sent home a beautiful bust of a woman, which his mom prominently displayed.
  • When I was in NYC, he stayed with me for a few weeks, sleeping on my floor (he didn't really fit in beds anyway, having to move the mattress down the frame and supplementing with pillows.)  I remember him as fairly austere.  He ate only Cream of Wheat, didn't like recorded music or even photographs because they weren't "real."  There's a photo of us from this time, but I can't find it.
  • While in NYC, he was sculpting at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, having gotten the connection from his Italian teacher.
  • Later, he lived in a basic hut (no power or running water) on the moors of Scotland; his parents visited him there.
  • And then he met up with a Pepperdine friend at a monastery in France.  He became Catholic.  He learned French.  He took vows and became a monk.
  • As a monk, he traveled both to Egypt and to the Czech Republic doing the work of his monastery.  He also helped with the online end of the monastery's retail business.  They made jams and I think even wine.
  • He also got a degree in paleo-calligraphy--the art of ancient documents--from the Sorbonne.  His handwriting was beautiful like his mother's, but more flowing.
  • He wore Teva sandals because he couldn't fit into the regular monk shoes; his mom would ship them from Texas.
  • Before he took final vows, he came back to US to think things over.  And he even did some bartending with his brother for awhile.  
  • I think this was the last time I saw him, at his parents' home on that trip.  
  • We exchanged letters and emails only very occasionally--when I came out, when Mama and I had twins, when his mom was ill and then when she died.  We only discussed religion once or twice--when John Paul II died and I sent condolences and he said, as a monk, he wasn't that concerned with the politics of the church.  And when I told him about being a Unitarian, he said I should give the Trinity a try. Through his monk-friend I sent him our goodbyes.
Just a few years older than me.

You are remembered well, cousin.

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