Year’s end has always provided me with an opportunity for introspection – to gaze upon fondly, and sadly sometimes, at the year now past.. and to look ahead, with hope, at the year ahead.
The year 2005 began, as is appropriate with the New England Patriots winning their third Super Bowl in the last four years – in a year filled with nary a scandal.
January 20th, as is our tradition every four years in this country, brought us second inauguration of President George W. Bush. The year has not been kind to the President, who has had to endure more losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, the indictment of an aide, and the leaks of highly classified programs. Yet he seems to have regained his stride by year’s end, and I hope that 2006 brings a different tone to the debates here in this country. After all, we are still a country at war.
In April, I purchased a new bicycle, a Trek 1200c road bike. By the time the winter season had come to Minnesota, I had ridden an average of eighty miles a week. Some weekends in Minneapolis, saw three consecutive days of 25+ mile rides.
2005 brought a new job for me, moving into our corporate headquarters for the first time as a staffer, one of two responsible for crisis management worldwide for the corporation. And in the course, we relocated to Woodbury, Minnesota. While I knew that natural disasters were likely going to be my lot come the fall season of the year, no one could have predicted that one of the first we would handle would be the terrorist bombings in London.
It was during the bombings that we first saw a foreign flag fly over the United States Department of State, and that we heard Tony Blair say this:
It’s important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world.
Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world.
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma were the focus of the entire third quarter of this year for me & the team that I work with. We spent nearly fifty days in crisis mode working to support our team and partners in the affected areas. And that is only a small amount of what FEMA and others had to deal with.
Even local police departments worked to support those in the affected areas by deploying police officers into New Orleans. From their blog, they shared this comment from a man driving past them in Illinois as they traveled towards Louisiana:
Dear Sir or Madam:
On my way to work today I saw a long-ish line of police-type vehicles, & as I made my turn I could see on their sides “Minneapolis”!
Please extend our sincere thanks to all of the folks from Minneapolis, as well as Bloomington, Ramsey County, Roseville, and Maplewood, who have come down to help, and to those who are pitching in at home to make their trip possible.
It was the summer when Lance Armstrong defied all expectations and pedaled his way to a dominating 7th straight Tour de France win. We were awe-inspired by his victory in such a manner… if you had read his book from a few years ago, one would know that he was nearly felled by cancer. Now, at 34, Lance is retired and is working towards a cure through his foundation.
August brought about the final stages of the move to Minnesota – selling the house and finally leaving Massachusetts. August 24th was the last day. This picture shows our front door on our last 4th of July in Boston.
Massachusetts will always hold a fond place in my heart. It was the place we first owned a home – and a place of many wonderful explorations of our nation’s history. We’ll be back there a few times this year for some events and some work trips, but our journey there has ended. But I’ll always miss the quiet majesty of Concord and Lexington, where this great adventure known as the United States began.
As is the sad case in every year, 2005 saw many that we loved and admired leave this world for whatever lies beyond the last breath. Some of which I’ll always remember.
Shelby Foote passed away in mid-year. He was perhaps the greatest of the civil war historians of all time. His trilogy of books chronicling the battles between the north and the south span nearly four thousand pages. And his hours of interviews and narration in Ken Burn’s The Civil War are among the best in any documentary. I will always remember him for the closing statement of The Civil War:
“In time, even death itself might be abolished; who knows but it may be given to us after this life to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning role call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle.
Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while the cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the battle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will meet together under the two flags, all sound and well, and there will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say, Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?”
It was towards the end of the year that I was shocked by the death of actor John Spencer, who played Vice Presidential candidate Leo McGarry on NBC’s The West Wing. Leo was the character to me that made this show what it is. One of his most memorable lines came when ending an episode with fellow staffer Josh Lyman:
This guy’s walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can’t get out.
A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole, and moves on.
Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole! Can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.
Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!” And the friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
2005 also brought us the death of one of the icons of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, Rosa Parks. This nation afforded her the honor that she deserved as she became the first woman to lie in state beneath the Capitol Rotunda. So much happened because this woman refused to give up her seat.
One of the most moving and dramatic passings of the year was that of the Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul II. His funeral paused the world for a moment while we each watched the scene in Rome and absorbed the lessons that this man left us in the manner of his death. His funeral was among the most majestic the world has seen. And his own personal testament left a lasting impression:
As the end of my life approaches I return with my memory to the beginning, to my parents, to my brother, to the sister (I never knew because she died before my birth), to the parish in Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city I love, to my peers, friends from elementary school, high school and the university, up to the time of the occupation when I was a worker, and then in the parish of Niegowic, then St. Florian’s in Krakow, to the pastoral ministry of academics, to the milieu of … to all milieux … to Krakow and to Rome … to the people who were entrusted to me in a special way by the Lord.
To all I want to say just one thing: “May God reward you.”
Lastly, this year ends with one photo that is symbolic of all those that gave their lives this year so that we – and others around the world – may live in freedom and security. In a year, where we have lost so many, it is only fitting to take time at the end of this year to reflect upon the year that was – and what lies ahead. We have chosen the more difficult path to take – but the right path – and in doing so we will see freedom continue to grow around the world.
I wish you and yours a Happy New Year – and am looking forward to a great 2006!.