He was a best friend of my parents. John was an ex-priest and a high school teacher; as selfless a man as I have ever known. His best friend and roomie also became an ex-priest and, as weird coincidence would have it (or fate or luck), his old roommate married my mom late in her life, after both of them had lost their spouses. Jim Burns gave my mom some of the happiest days of her life. John and Jim and my mom remained connected throughout their lives.
I was rooting around in some of the papers left by my mom the other day. She had several large manilla envelopes marked "KEEPERS". In it were letters, birth certificates, newspaper clippings, photos - some really cool stuff.
Also tucked away in those mementos were a couple short pieces written by John Sheehan. I think they came in Christmas letters (which usually came in February or March). My mom moved around a lot in her later years. She outlived three husbands. And every time she moved, her few possessions became more and more distilled. That's why I know that these poems and the memory of John Sheehan were very important to her.
This little piece was dated December 6, 2003. It was written in John's hasty half-cursive-half-manuscript scrawl.
What we really should do with Saddam Hussein
is not drop bombs on his people
but pull a St. Francis
pelt them with food
and medical supplies
remove the unChristian
shame him into humanity
shame Netanyahu into the fullness
of Israel's ancient promise
shame ourselves into
dropping our worship
of guns and bombs and capital punishment
kiss Mother Earth
and rise to sing
Glory to God in the highest
in the greatest and least
of the whole damned
blessed human family
Written around the edges of the simple white sheet of paper were these words.
Sent with love and hope. Happy holidays, Mardi Gras, Easter and 4th of July... Forgive us, O Lord, as we forgive.