Recently, a photo of mine was swiped from my Facebook archives and used in a post to disparage me. I asked the writer of the post to remove it. I understood the photo to be under copyright law, and do appreciate that he honored that request in part.
Here’s the photo where it’s meant to be.
I’m sharing it here today at the suggestion of a friend, with whom I chatted by phone recently. I was telling her about the photo and why it was important to me that it not be used in the way it was. She felt my thoughts were worthy of sharing, and I agreed the photo deserved a second chance in the right setting.
What I like about this photo most of all has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the friend who took it. When I learned five years ago, not long after meeting Vicky Westra, that doctors had discovered tumors in her body, I became drawn quickly into her life story. There was a wide base of commonalities — a love for our families, a passion for writing, a yearning for God. Because I was planning a visit to the monastery in Wahpeton that has become a place of refuge, I asked Vicky to come along, knowing she may need a peaceful place to sort through her diagnosis. I am delighted that Vicky has been to Carmel of Mary with me many times since that first visit. I can no longer think of this beautiful spot of heaven without her. She is my Carmel buddy.
It was last summer, during our bi-annual visit, that Vicky snapped this photo. I wasn’t expecting it, but we were leaving the dining hall at midday meal — which the Sisters call “dinner” — when Vicky told me to pause so she could take a quick photo of me. Vicky’s husband, Rick, is a professional photographer, and she, like I do, enjoys dabbling in the craft. Much of our time at Carmel is spent roaming the grounds together, discovering new miracles of nature, and capturing them to share with others back home — and sometimes with the Sisters, who, being cloistered, don’t get out on the front grounds often.
Like many, I’m squeamish about photos of myself. But this one seemed genuine. I feel that Vicky caught me in a natural moment of just being me — relaxed, and at peace, with the sun illuminating my hair from the back. But when I see this photo, I see more than me. I see Vicky staring back at me with her camera pointing my way, and us giggling like school girls over our luck at being invited, time and again, to this place. For it is a place where we can let down our guard, discuss the hard things in life in safety, observe nature, and be fed in a multitude of ways — most especially by the love and generosity of God, shown through the caring of the Sisters.
The very best word to describe both Carmel and my friendship with Vicky, I think, is this: sacred.
So when I saw this particular photo, captured by the hand of a friend who has suffered much, but who continues to pour out her life for others over and over again, plastered to a post meant for ill will, something seemed very wrong, copyright issue aside.
Now that the photo has come back into my line of vision, however, I’m going to have it near as a reminder, of friendship, blessing, and the many good things God has brought into my life. It will also remind me that we are all human, and we all deserve grace and to be given the benefit of the doubt. And that God loves us, deeply, and wants to show us his merciful heart, even those who do not feel worthy of it.
I end with an excerpt I read today in my “Magnificat” devotional:
“(Jesus) ascended the hill of the cross and transformed it into the seat of glory, a holy place. Risen, he invites us to leave behind all worthless desires and seek him in holiness, that is, in love.”
May it be done, according to your will, oh Lord.
“Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner.”