I let the email message sit unopened in my mail box for a few days before I found the time to open it. When I finally did open it, I realized this was one of those moments, or events, or unfoldings of circumstances where I could feel God's hand moving things along in an amazing way. The email was from the poverty activist I interviewed for an article earlier this summer. I'd told her I was dealing with cancer, while pregnant, etc. — the whole deal — and she'd promised to keep me in her prayers and to share my name with an order of prayerful nuns she knows. It turns out she shared my name with a lot of people, including a woman who recognized me from having met me one time, years ago, through a talk I was covering for work. This woman, Mary Treacy O'Keefe, now runs an organization in West St. Paul called Well Within, which offers integrative healing therapies for people dealing with health challenges. That includes things like healing touch, guided imagery, spiritual direction and a host of classes — all at no charge, though they accept donations. Mary asked the woman I'd interviewed — the poverty activist — to let me know I was welcome to contact her and provided her email address and Web site, which the poverty activist forwarded on to me ... in that seemingly uneventful email that I let sit for a few days.
I had noticed Mary Treacy O'Keefe's book here and there. It's called Thin Places: Where Faith Is Affirmed and Hope Dwells. I've been fascinated with the notion of thin places for some time, so I'd been wanting to read the book. I first heard the term used to describe Grand Marais, up on the North Shore of Minnesota. And then I started hearing it in connection with Celtic spirituality. Mary Treacy O'Keefe, who is well in touch with her Celtic roots, uses it to describe "sudden realizations of that ethereal veil between what we know of Earth and what we believe of heaven," particularly in the face of her parents' death, three months apart, several years ago. Her Web site says, "In sharing her family's story (and those of many others), she shows how thin places are present in ordinary times — and how such moments of grace reveal Divine loving messages of faith and hope in our daily lives."
Well, I consider the way Mary and I connected an example of a "thin place" in my ordinary life. I checked the Well Within Web site and was just stunned at how the programs seemed to be calling me. They felt like exactly what I really, really need right now in my life. I emailed Mary and told her I was glad she had reached out to me. She emailed back almost right away with a note that made me feel the universe was aligning for me: She too was a cancer survivor and is trained as a "cancer guide." She has tried a number of different healing therapies and believes them to be valuable. She knows how healing it can be just to talk about what you're going through. Would I like to meet sometime and talk about how Well Within might be able to help me?
I wanted to call her that very moment, but it took me a while to get back to her. I felt overwhelmed and kept putting it off. Finally, we set up a time to meet, and today I went over to Well Within and met her and a few others on the volunteer staff. It was so refreshing to talk to her. I love it when I meet people who are spiritual in the sense that they have a sense of how God works in our lives, under the current, in ways that often feel like our inner voice. People like Mary remind me to pay attention to that "still, small voice within," as she called it. And I do believe that God sends people to us when we need to meet them. I really needed to meet Mary and to know that the loving, healing programs at Well Within are ... ahem ... well within my reach. I feel blessed to have had the chance to do it today. (Thank you, Mary, if you're reading this.)
And now I'm reading "Thin Places," and of course it's making me cry. And hope that when it comes my time to die, I can have as graceful and happy a death as her father did. (I just finished the chapter about his death.) But I don't have time to go into all that right now ... maybe later.