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Via Media


Emilie Lemmons was a 40-year old mother of two young boys, and a long-time writer for the Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan paper for Minneapolis-St. Paul.
A year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, fought it, wrote about it, and died Christmas Eve.
Here is her last column for the Spirit, published at the beginning of December:

Sometimes I see myself in the description of people who fight toward a specific outcome and are “haunted by the specter of failure and disappointment.” It’s the mother in me. I rage against the possibility that I might die and leave my children motherless, my husband a widower. Even though the medical odds are against me, and my rational mind knows I could die, it is hard for me to accept death as an outcome.
What if I just let go of that? What if I trust that even if I die tomorrow or next month or next year, things will somehow work out? What if I allow myself to put the outcome in God’s hands and just live intensely in the present, absorbing and em­bracing life as it happens? It’s not indifference or admitting defeat; it’s seeing the bigger picture.
Maybe that’s what was going on last week when I received a surprise gift in the mail from a group of friends. Inside were a book, a sweater, some candy, some stationery, all of it beautiful and thoughtfully selected.
I burst into tears as soon as I opened the package. And while I knew they were tears of joy, they felt as if they were coming from the same place deep inside me where my sorrow dwells. It was as if joy and sorrow were intermingled in an intense response to life.
Maybe that is what Rachel Naomi Remen means when she writes, “Joy seems more closely related to aliveness than to happiness.”
Maybe I am capable of experiencing joy after all. Maybe I don’t need to approach joy with resentment. Maybe that message is what my Advent light is illuminating. I pray that I can enter into the lesson God is trying to teach me.

Here is a remembrance of Emilie from the newspaper
And here is Emilie’s blog, lemmondrops, which includes a final post from her on December 19.

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Tim J

posted December 30, 2008 at 12:37 pm

What she describes above sounds similar to the process I went through in “letting go” of my dying father. It was the realization that I had been trying (such as I could) to take charge, to take responsibility for certain outcomes, rather than to trust my father to the providence of God.
To me at that time, accepting the possibility of Dad’s death seemed like a failure of courage, or of hope or faith. The opposite was true, of course.
I was almost embarrassed to come so late to the realization that God cared for my father much more than I did.
That made all the difference.
God grant eternal peace and rest to them both.

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Clare Krishan

posted December 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Poignant in that way that impinges on the senses (as the delicate scent of a perishable fruit, reminding us how we attempt to distill ourselves into a pungent perfume that will make a lasting impression) yet pricks the conscience as we neglected to pay mind to the fragility of it all.
A wonderful reflection on how to approach too premature suffering is this Xmas day BBC “Belief” interview with Sr. Frances Dominica (2 days left to listen):
(her bio here:

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posted December 30, 2008 at 8:14 pm

A lovely lady. Known to me only through her columns, which were not to be missed, authentic, reverent and often insightful. A blessing she was in this local church. Thanks be to God! God rest her soul, and may Christ’s Peace guard her family.
Emilie, please pray for us here below.

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Brian Sullivan

posted December 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I wish I had known about her before she left for home. Emilie’s story reminds me of my mom who died of cancer at age 90 almost 2 years ago. Not doubt that the end of my mom’s life was “one of the most amazing and spiritual times of [her] life.” And of mine. Maybe it’s time I write about it.
Mary, Our Lady of the Snow, receive Emilie into your care.

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thomas tucker

posted January 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Letting go and living in the moment is very Christian and also very Buddhist- I understand Merton’s recognition of the common aspects of the two, even though I recognize that there are significant differences, of course. I think it is also an aspect of Christianity that started getting lost somewhere along the way. Although it has always been there, it seems to have been eclipsed by the “getting what you want thru prayer” mode, which has been taken to the extreme by the current mega Church tv-evangelists.

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posted January 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I read this post the day before mass for Mary, Mother of God. “What if I allow myself to put the outcome in God’s hands…” I can’t help but think that Mary must have had the same thoughts. This had been more moving and fruitful for me than Advent.
I am remembering Emilie’s husband, children and the rest of her family and friends in my prayers.

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