Getting Personal…

Jan 2, 2014

Looking Back at 2013, Looking Forward to 2014

I had often been to the family graveyard with my parents, cousins and siblings, trimming, pruning, watering, planting new flowers around the gravestones of forebears and infants, born and died.  As the years passed, the party of those doing the gardening had shrunk while the numbers of gravestones had grown:  grandparents, my brother, my father, aunts and uncles.  As my mother would dig a row of neat little holes in the hard soil, ready for marigolds, my father’s favourite, I would close my eyes a bit, squinting at the stone with my parents’ names inscribed, focussing on the blank next to ‘1927’ and the hyphen that followed, trying to figure out what numbers we, her children, would chisel into that blank spot.  I, of course, wanted it to remain blank forever. Not to be:  09 October 2009.

When the last of the previous generation has been buried, perhaps that is when we become aware of the chisel to our own tomb, that each moment, each page of the calendar turned brings us closer to that date.  An idea I first encountered in the late 1980s, early 1990s – about the need to die before you die, in order to live – seems etched more clearly than ever these days.  Eight years single has  been a good time for working from the yoga mat, thinking about and focussing on the moment – the Power of the Now, as Eckhart Tölle puts it – immersed in gratitude, unburdened by past regret or even, even – as Meg Wheatley says (in So Far From Home), hope!  Wow!

As this calendar year gets flipped over, I am so grateful for the gifts of 2013 – two daughters, Emily and Gillian, who are healthy and well, creators of so much good family space – in Tottenham and in Muskoka; two grandchildren, Owen, almost 11, and Morgan, 5 ½,  whose curiosity and delight multiplies a Granny’s joy, giving new lenses for the world we are (re)discovering – geo-caching, mine-craft and basher science, skating, reading, snow-boarding, sewing, playing piano and guitar – and whose sense of fairness and generosity makes me proud to be a part of their lives.

I am grateful for some of the best work experiences of my life – both in health care training and planning and in zones of conflict – that stretched me to the outer edges of what I felt to be my capacities to learn and to teach, to lead and to follow.  I am grateful for extended family, new ties with old friends, new ties with new friends, sister and brother activists and theologians of creation and of peace; a wonderful board of directors; for discovery, new ideas and insights, all of that. Grateful for running, health, daily practices that mix my primordial Christianity with a Buddhism that sheds some good mindfulness light on the first!  There was lament, as well, points of sadness, grief and family loss, South Sudan’s return to war, the Philippine Islands’ typhoon; personal breaches and confusions.  There have been the disappointments of the activist that have been difficult to absorb.

Twenty fourteen feels an auspicious year, even with only a toe on the threshold!   El camino will feature family celebrations (for example, my twin is celebrating a big birthday…), snow-boarding lessons, language lessons, jazz piano, a new venture, both personal and business, new opportunities in health care, education and trade unions, BPFNA peace camp in Canada, centenary celebrations of an organisation I am just beginning to get to know – the International Fellowship of Reconciliation – in Konstanz, Germany; creative responses to invitations from amazing NGOs living and working in zones of conflict and civil war with an abundance of ideas, if not resources, on how to create the conditions for peace with justice.  Perhaps even the first chapters of a long-awaited book.  Definitely a year of activism, framed not in desperation but as right work.

Barrick Gold Protest

Being personal in a scatter-shot letter is hard to do but here it is – to you, who have been a long time or a short time part of my life, thank you:  here’s to more of the same.  I wish you the desires of your heart.

With love and the kind of peace that disturbs,

LeeAnn McKenna


Muslim-Christian Trainings
Mindanao / Philippines Conflict Transformation
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
Sudan third party non-violence intervention