Another Man’s Refuge


@postaday 328; #postaday2011.

Last night I attended the funeral service for former Advertiser editor and reporter Mary Kaye Ritz at St. John Vianney parish in Kailua. As it was the first time for me at the church, I tried to make a wish, but I couldn’t.

I don’t know if it was because we were Catholic, but making a wish when in a new church was one of those things my mom would tell me to do. I always made a wish, but last night, I couldn’t. I would have wished that there were a different reason we former Advertiser employees and friends and family of Mary Kaye could gather. It was so lovely to see everyone. We’re a little older, a little more worn. Where once we were a circle of insiders to breaking news and knowledge, it is much different. The circle has turned inside out. Some are with the new paper, others have crossed into digital endeavors, some have parked with magazines, have joined other industries, some have penned books, some have retired.

Last night we celebrated Mary Kaye. She was the religion writer for the Advertiser before she went on disability to fully negotiate the war that waged within her body. While at the service, it was inevitable to acknowledge how Mary Kaye sought to clarify the various religious practices in Hawaii. This good Catholic girl wrote in the way G*d would have wanted her to: With charity, clarity, and community. As a result, I believe, Hawaii is a very loving and welcoming place for those who wish to worship in the way they feel most comfortable.

All were welcome at last night’s celebration of her life. I sat in the third row, and I stood up when everyone else stood up, and as the funeral mass began, my Catholic past erupted and the rituals blew through me like a rush of wind. Like a rush of the Holy Spirit? I enjoyed the beautiful choir, I listened intently to the readings of the scriptures, I stood up, I sat down, I made the sign of the cross. I did it all for Mary Kaye and her family.

When I was little I used to faint in church, or vomit, or get dizzy and have to sit down, ignoring the tsks tsks of those holier than me. I convinced myself it was because I was a sinner, an evil little girl who had no business in the house of G*d. And as I grew up, the routine of mass grew hollow to me. Last night I was reminded that it still is.

I have a lot of friends who cling to their childhood faiths, have become loyal to new ones, are comfortable with their prayers and discussing their relationship with Jesus and other spiritual icons. Because of Mary Kaye, I think a lot of us are OK that there are Mormons, Methodists, and Muslims. Faiths are a refuge we inherit, and some of us find it hard to follow instructions doled out by mere humans who are in charge.

But there must be a place for people like me. I have faith. I believe that something tremendous is responsible for us to have souls, for us to want to reach out and connect thoughts and feelings with each other. Relationships that go deeper than commerce and into friendships, sharing, and emotional connections. Something that leads us to believe that when loved ones die we are still connected forever. But I also believe no one man or belief system knows exactly how or why. It’s too open ended, and that is why my soul belongs to no religious community.