Tag Archives: John Licharowicz

John.

 

This is the place I never thought I’d be.

We anticipate the loss of family members. We agree ’til death do us part, at the altar.

But, John.

Did we all have one?

John was my first love.

By that, I mean John was the first who loved me, too.

We were 21. The setting was at once predictable and incongruous: a Bible conference. Yearly, those from among our fundamentalist sect knew full well that a week spent on the beautiful, sprawling, verdant campus of Grove City College would bring together all the young to wed. And, every summer, with manic anticipation, we girls would giggle our way onto the grounds in our newest Sunday fare, a wardrobe meticulously planned for each morning, afternoon, and evening of seven blissful days away from everyone else on the face of the earth. Jesus was the reason, but….the boys. The boys were what made the purpose desirable, irresistible, and unbearably delicious.

He’d been a stand out, from the first. Most of the young men English, Germanic or otherwise Midwestern, this one was short, honey haired, and Polish/Armenian?, with the most luminously large dark eyes in the room. And, those almond orbs had looked back at me across the gymnasium seating, meeting my own deeply set brown ones – fixed, locked, a slow smile on his mouth to confirm I wasn’t dreaming. I can’t remember anything that happened after that – until we stood, at dusk, on the sidewalk leading to the girl’s dormitory, he with his Bible clasped between both hands and his enormous dark eyes never leaving mine for a moment. With one hand he’d taken the tip of his index finger and touched the center of my belly, and a spark of fire ignited my whole body. I would not know this as a hormonal response. I wouldn’t care. Completely and without any hesitation I was his, from that moment until the end.

The end came harshly.

But, in between, the blush and glorious ecstasy of true love.

Seven years earlier, I’d had a brush with profound spiritual terror. Formal operational thought having kicked in spontaneously that summer, I’d gone in the space of one week at the conference from “ho-hum” to “Is God even real”? So agonizing and mind blowing was the maelstrom of doubt that, after two years of fixated poring over any literature on the subject available to me, I’d resigned to a detachment from all things related to religious faith in order to preserve my emotional sanity. If I didn’t think about any of it, then none of its power – good, or evil – could any longer either suffocate or scare me to death.

But, then, along came John.

And, he was, first and foremost, an intellect.

John wasn’t just the boy who’d been saved at age 14 from hallucinogenic drugs. He was a Christian thinker.

John was an apologist.

We spent that week facing headlong every dumbfounding question, he with his ready analysis, all delivered with the softest, most gentle timbral inflection. He eagerly addressed my countless questions with answers more stimulating than the next. The hours we spent in dialogue, about Francis Schaeffer, Rookmaker and, his beloved favorite, C.S. Lewis, long since ceased being numbered; they began directly after morning Bible study, continuing on the walk to lunch, resuming during the afternoons across the bridge, and persisted until the sun was soon to set, campus curfew tested by every tantalizing dilemma left for the next morning.

And, every encounter so sensate, he with his continuous caress. Every nerve ending, from the soles of my feet to the corner cubby of my frontal cortex, was electrically charged by his mind and body.

By the end of the week, I was committed. This boy was perfect, in every way. With him, I could return to a faith which was expansive, all encompassing; with him, I could find my identity both as an artist and a devout woman. He would be my husband, and I would be his wife, and we would be together forever.

But, melodrama would have its day.

Evil would cloak, and creep.

By the final morning of our conference that summer, word would leak; some girl with a crystallized reputation had let a story slip into the gossip chain, a shocking accusation which involved my John. And, so many of the women in attendance ripe for a life-affirming scandal, talk of it flew through the wireless air like emergency radio. I gave it all a mere passing scoff. Couldn’t be true; this was my man. If it were, so be it; he was still to be mine, God ordained. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.

However, the hierarchy of control which held our desperate sect together had received their call to arms. By the time he’d arrived home to Baltimore, four men had already flanked him; ordering him to appear before their court, he was to accept their full assessment. And, their conclusion was swift: John was to be removed from the fellowship, and placed under an indefinite period of discipline.

I would have none of it.

Re-enrolling in college that fall, I would commence a switch from fine art to a rigorous major in music education with a looming recital requirement. After the six hours each day spent alone with my cello, he and I would spend as many, on the phone, four hours at a stretch, and every weekend he could not be with me. Once per month, he’d drive the spider infested rattle trap car with no heat that he got for one dollar all the way across Pennsylvania to western New York to be with me for two, enraptured days at school. For Christmas, I gave him the very first flip phone, so he could talk to me in private; from him, I received a diamond necklace, from Zales. This was a promise gift, he’d said.

My dreams grew. John was a pure math major, at Towson. Had a job, as a draftsman. I could transfer to Peabody Conservatory, where my professor was urging me to go, and switch to performance. When we got married, I could shoot for the Baltimore Symphony.

But, the tribunal would not be mocked.

His own mother, he’d said, was wondering about this girl from PA. She’d never even met me, but had come to an unsettling conclusion; I was too “independent-minded” for her son. I’d likely not be right for him, as a helpmate. Perhaps his disciplinary period should include time away from this relationship, to leave room for a companion more willing to subject herself to God’s authority.

Once again, my resolve deepened. Let anybody try to separate me from the love of Christ, as manifest in this, the love of my life.

Then, the letter came.

Hand writing in blue ballpoint ink, John poured out all his carefully analyzed reasons for ceasing our communication. For every in-depth conversation we’d created together, this was the razor’s edge. I was cut, and cut, and cut again.

Enraging grief overtook me. They had stolen him away. The whole army of them – the tribunal; the entire, alleged fellowship; and: his mother. This was beyond abandonment. This was destruction.

For weeks thereafter, I drifted. Tried a surrogate, a Jewish boy, same size, no further resemblance. Crushed on a pianist, who shared his dark eyes and gaze. Then, succumbed to the charms of a tall rock and roller, with similar intellect. He rejected Schaeffer’s apologies, writing blasphemous comments in the margins of the books John had sent me, and then dumped me for a psych major with buck teeth willing to go all the way.

I was lost.

We’d had one more chance, a few years later. I sang at his best friend’s wedding. We rode to DC, in the dark, and lay on the sidewalk under the stars at the Lincoln Memorial. But, I’d been spoiled. There was no going back. Not for me. I’d been all in, and left to paddle ashore alone. One doesn’t jump back into the brink.

He married, raised a family.  I married. Divorced.

We grew old.

Today, word came to me. This morning, John died.

And, I wept.

I wept for every moment of hope. For every chapter in the book that was never published. For all the dreams of that fantasy life of mutually deep and lasting love. And, for John, because he had to die at the hands of a disease which destroyed his body.

His mind and mine had been so beautifully aligned. Then, the stars of imperious power over the spirit crossed, and wrenched us apart.

Beyond all the horizons of deepening mystery, where we can all slip these bonds, know as we are known, and be together in one Spirit, there will be a place.

Save one for me, John.

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johnwhenilovedhim
John was a wonderful husband and father. He was committed, devout, devoted, hard working, loyal, faithful, and true. He and his wife Melissa had four beautiful children, all young adults now. May they all forgive and accept this tribute.

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© 1/21/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo    This is a tribute to John Licharowicz. Share with the author’s permission. Thank you for respecting his family, and the rest of the broken hearted.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolution.

 Absolution.
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This morning, John Paul Downey, priest to St Paul’s Episcopalians, exhorted his congregation in prayer. He asked God to renew our hearts to look “beyond our absolutions.”
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I heard this from my seat at the cello, near the pipe organ and the rest of the musicians. And, as is so often the case during one of John Paul Downey’s homilies, the Spirit set my mind to contemplation.
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On Good Friday prior to this Resurrection Sunday ( now so – called by the Church, lest we confuse Christ’s triumph over death with the holiday otherwise celebrated),  the atmosphere had been emotionally charged. Pastor Timm, of the high Presbytery at First Covenant, had embodied Christ on the cross like nobody since my own father, and was a much larger and more cavernous resonating chamber than dad could ever have hoped to be. My whole body’d reacted to his thunderous declaration of the Son of God’s final words:
IT.IS.FINISHED!
and, I’d spent the rest of the service in tears.
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But, “absolution”.
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After a brief stop for Russell Stover creme eggs, I came home and went for the Webster’s. First, the root:
Absolute:

free from imperfection; perfect; not mixed or adulterated; pure.

free from restriction or limitation; ultimate; positive; certain; complete.

And, then this:

something that is not dependent upon external conditions for existence or for its specific nature.
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Buzzwords come and go in our society, and I’ve lived long enough to witness many an incantation. Perhaps we can credit the talk show circuit for these trends, but somewhere between 1997 and just last week, the response: “Absolutely!” locked in as the only hip retort to any pursuit of affirmation. We had all become, for reasons I have no authority to cite, ultimately, positively, perfectly sure  – and, remained so for over a decade.
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But, “not dependent upon external conditions for existence………”……now, there’s a state.
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One of the most baffling aspects of Christ on the cross, as he had come to be recognized by Christians over the centuries was his having taken, upon the body he bore, the weight of all the transgressions of mankind committed against his father, God. Or, Eloi, as he’d called him from Golgotha (and, probably earlier, in the garden of Gesthemane.) Jesus had agreed to die in exchange for the entire creation’s absolution. Yes. Complete, total forgiveness. And, he being believed to be uncorrupted, was the absolute sacrifice – pure, perfect, complete, AND: believed to be holy and divine, not dependent upon external conditions for his existence.
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Now, I’m neither linguistics expert nor historian, but the source indicates that the term “absolute” first appeared in the 13th century. Thirteen hundred years after the birth of Christ. I don’t know what earlier thought evolved the concept, but its embodiment in the form of an omniscient God who, paradoxically, needed no body to house His Spirit was sufficient for me from my birth. Perhaps this is merely indoctrination (the source of any faith?) ; tradition, the result of its practices. Yet, I do have science on my side.
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Because, I also consider the state of utter and complete distinction, of total independence from external conditions. Apparently, such “absolutes” exist in nature, in chemistry and mathematics. But, when did we first lay hold of, and then depart from, a “belief” in Absolutes? Were there external influences affecting this? Can we blame Relativism for whole generations of entirely too much flexibility of position? Have we weighed both sides of every issue for so long that we can no longer come to any decisions that will hold up under the fixed scrutiny of finality?
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One thing seems clear: When we read the words of Jesus, we never find ambiguity. Whenever he is challenged, he responds with the conviction of inner authority. And, neither is he shy of leaving one with a question as an answer. He had a gift for knowing when to declare, and when to let a query be the impetus for further inquiry. Could this be because he knew the answer was absolutely discoverable?
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Father Downey urged us to look beyond our having been forgiven. I should be so thankful that, more than once a year, I am called to witness Christ’s declarations from my seat in the musical ministry. I should be so grateful that he still provokes me to search out the truth. Most importantly, I am truly and deeply moved to be certain when I have found it.
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Absolutely.
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
4/5/15  all rights those of the author. Thank you. Selah.
littlebarefeetblog.com