There was a hard poignancy in watching Gusmus, our little frame house out back, being taken down yesterday. It was especially poignant to watch it happen on All Saints Day.
This picture kind of says it all – the brilliant and beautiful leaves of autumn seemingly forming an odd counterpoint to the fractured timbers of Gusmus, yet somehow being all of one piece. Each represents a life fully lived, fully given to the cycle of death and life and the turning over of new leaves. Each represents a life given “all in.”
Our dear little house, which gradually acquired the appellation “Gusmus” after our long-time handyman who built it back in the 40’s, has given fully of itself in countless ways. In the years since serving as a home for Mr. Gusmus, this simple frame house has served as a guest house for Sisters’ families, has housed Hurricane Katrina refugees, has served as home for a few of us during the renovation of Ottilia, has welcomed “Sister guests” from other monastic communities, has offered a retreat space for our own community members who needed a brief time away, and filled in admirably for innumerable other community needs. Now it is giving way to our need for new Retreat Center facilities.
If a house could be a saint, this house would be a good contender for canonization. It has lived its life “all in,” giving itself fully to whatever it was called to do, and now yielding like an autumn leaf to the paschal cycle of death to new life. Its namesake also lived his life “all in,” faithfully serving the monastic community for decades. I never knew him, but the stories that are told are recounted with a reverential, saint-like tone.
Today, on All Souls Day, we will process to the cemetery where we will recite the names of our deceased Sisters. I’ll also remember in my heart the name of Mr. Gusmus, giving thanks for a good soul, a giving soul, and a soul given “all in” in service to the monastic community and to the Lord.
Postscript: This morning at breakfast we were reminiscing about Gusmus, with Sr. Benita recalling her years as primary caretaker of the house, Sr. Bertha recalling the “quiet time” she spent there, me recalling a sweet note Sr. Benita had left for me when I stayed there as a vocation inquirer, and so on. With the loss of this dear, sweet house, I think our hearts are as crushed as the rubble, and it is particularly hard to look at the crushed timbers on a day like All Souls. Yet like the autumn leaves, we also look with hope to what is to come.
“The bones that were crushed shall leap for joy before the Lord.”
Antiphon from the Office for the Dead.