January 12, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Carrying Christ into 2007 with ‘Hoka Hey!’

Shirley Vogler MeisterOften, I have suggested in my column that we must move forward with the right spirit and intention each day.

This week, however, I look backward, but only a little—to last month when we celebrated the birth of Jesus with beautiful Masses, holiday food and drink, and good will toward all.

Many of us also sent and received Christmas messages, and did something special for those forgotten, lonely or otherwise needy.

However, in about the second week of December, Jack, a friend living in Florida, shared this message with me by e-mail:

“Christmas means so much to me; that is what makes this so hard to write. 2006 has not been kind so I will not be able to send cards this year. I cannot remember not sending cards.”

Jack reminisced about how as a child he sat at the kitchen table while his mother wrote cards and personal messages.

“I couldn’t wait until she … addressed envelopes so I could lick the 3-cent stamp and affix it to the upper right hand corner,” he recalled.

“Then there were the lean times right after marriage,” Jack wrote, when he and his late wife, Evelyn, counted pennies.

“We managed to send cards … and as each child entered our life we added a name and more love,” he explained. “After our first child, we had the card printed with ‘Unto us a child is given,’ and inserted a picture of her.

“All these years, we were able to send cards with our love ... but this year all I can send is my love.”

He did not ask for sympathy or anything else. Instead, he encouraged us to do what many of us forget—to carry Christ’s love all through the New Year, sharing the Christmas season virtues and blessings with everyone.

Jack considers himself a simple person, rich with love and friendship, but he’s also an inspiration to everyone he knows or meets. Daily, he deals with a debilitating neuromuscular disease with fortitude and humor and hope, passing those qualities on to others.

Jack ended his Advent message in a unique way: “Thank you for being there. Take care and be well. Hoka Hey!”

“Hoka Hey!” is his signing-off trademark, borrowed from Native Americans who, when going into battle, shouted these words, often interpreted as “It’s a good day to die.”

However, Jack explained, “Indians used ‘Hoka Hey’ for other reasons. It was a way of saying, ‘Do your best and, if you can, it is a good day to die. I am not afraid of anything. ... Look trouble in the eye and tell it to ‘get lost.’ ”

My friend carries Catholic virtues into life all year long, doing his best no matter what confronts him.

“Hoka Hey, Jack!”

“Hoka Hey, dear readers!”

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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