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Center for Action and Contemplation
The First Half of Life
The First Half of Life

Making Room for Something New

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

In a 2004 conference with Richard Rohr, author and retreat leader Paula D’Arcy spoke of her childhood kitchen table as a symbol of the security of her first half of life: 

I had a dream [at a retreat] … and in that dream, I was back in the home in which I was raised, and my siblings and my parents and I were all sitting around the kitchen table, which was the hub of our home. And then in the dream, suddenly the table was just gone. It had vanished…. When the table was removed, it made room for truth. Now there is space for something entirely new to happen….  

At that table, the first part of my journey happened. At that table, we sat, and my sisters and I were quizzed on the Baltimore Catechism, and we learned the laws, and we learned the rules. It’s very interesting to think how at that table, I first heard the question, “Who is God?” and “Why were we created?” And we parroted back to my parents the lesson book, the things that we were learning. At that table, we passed back and forth to my parents our report cards and sat hoping that they were good enough. At that table, we learned the values that had given my parents’ life shape.  

D’Arcy lost her husband and young daughter in a car accident when she was pregnant with their second child. She describes what it meant to sit at that same table with the reality of immense loss, and then to discover in her dream that the table is eventually taken away: 

Because that table once held all the answers, it held all the security. It was the frame, and it was the root of my life.… That table was so many things in that life; and then it became a table where I went in my grief and asked a lot of the questions about the meaning of life, and the extent of the darkness, and how a person got through that amount of pain.  

So the dream at that retreat was significant to me, when I dreamt that the table was now removed. It had served its purpose. It had held me while I went through the first half of my journey. It had provided all of the things that were meant to be provided, and now the table was removed, because the journey was to go a different way. The journey was now within. Now, all the doors and all the answers and all the mystery were going to be found not at that table, but … looking through eyes that were very different, and a life that was suddenly broken open in a different way. I learned the roots of love at that table, but when the table was removed .… My litany at that table would have been, “Do I have what it takes to really love, to do the second half of the journey?”

Reference:  

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Paula D’Arcy, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004), Audible audio edition. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 13 and 7. Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

A hawk judges its environment for survival and eventually takes flight. 

Story from Our Community:

After a slow decline from dementia, my wife of forty years lost her ability to speak. Although we lost verbal communication, it was during that time we experienced a deeper intimacy than at any time before. It was clear that she loved me and that she knew I loved her. There was something in her that connected with me and something in me that connected with her. Words were not necessary. Love unified us beyond anything words could describe. Love was our conversation. Those last days with Jan were the most challenging and the most precious of our marriage. I will always treasure them. —Elton N. 

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