Friday, October 3, 2008

Mourning with the fire chief at the Monastic wake

On Wednesday night we threw together something of an impromptu Irish wake for a grieving friend down at John D. McGurk's, where the Irish rover himself Pat Egan is in residence for the next couple of weeks.

John Eiler is the grieving man. This summer John cohosted with me The New Monastic Workshop, which at the time seemed like a slightly tongue-in-cheek, slightly forced male-bonding experience with elevated content.

As I found myself calling all of the monks to go McGurk's, or they called me as they heard the news from somebody else, I began to feel that we were in fact creating a structure that we didn't know we would need - and now, we need it.

Former Fire Chief Sherman George was one of our monks. He had come to the Monastic Workshop for the "Boxing for Breakfast" program, which I still need to go back and blog (so much happened in one weekend that the rest of life overtook me before I could get it all down here).

Sherman came to the impromptu wake, where I sketched him, looking younger and thinner. That could be an advert for getting sketched by me - TV puts the pounds on; I take the pounds (and the years) off!

The focus was on John and his daughter, Marsella Sali Grace, who lost her life last week in Mexico. I'll have much more to say about her as John collects himself and his thoughts. For now, suffice it to say there are a few engaged folks in St. Louis who will be following the news out of Oaxaca and its indigenous rights movement much, much more closely than we could have expected.

In a quiet moment at McGurk's, Sherman leaned to me and said, "It was a year ago today. It was a year ago today that they demoted me. October 1st."


The career of a fire chief pales in comparison to a dead girl, and Sherman knows that as well as anyone. But I reflected again whether the Monastic Workshop hadn't created a structure that the monks would need. Such a sad anniversary might be better spent in the company of thoughtful friends, even if one of them is crushed under a sadness with no comparison.

John is seeking justice for his daughter, who was a warrior for justice. Sherman has sued Mayor Francis G. Slay for racial discrimination and illegal job action. I will be following and praying for both.
[John is collecting and generating a tremendous amount of material about his daughter, but the article archive by The Firefighters Institute for Racial Equality is a good place to start catching up on the Sherman George story.]

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