Tuesday, April 16, 2013

my beantown

The news from Boston about what happened yesterday during the marathon is devastating.


While I only lived in Massachusetts for a small fraction of my life and haven't resided there for more than 30 years, I still consider it my hometown. I was born there, baptized there, married there. And thanks to my father and his numerous cemetery plots, will most likely be laid to rest there. Most of my family still lives there. They are scattered from the Cape to Stockbridge. The Red Sox are my baseball team; the Patriots are my football team. The Celtics are my basketball team, and the Bruins are my hockey team (if I could ever get myself to watch such a violent sport.)

Years ago, when I first took Charlie with me "back home" to meet my family in Massachusetts, I warned him we were a big group.  There are more than 40 grandchildren on my mother's side, alone. Since most of them went on to have several children, very soon our numbers were easily in the hundreds.


As we were walking through Boston's First Night on New Year's Eve, circa 1992, back in the days before cell phones and Facebook, we accidentally bumped in to one relative, and then two, and then another and another as we quickly and unexpectedly amassed a spontaneous reunion of descendants from Francis and Margaret Coleman.  It was spectacular. 


Along a similar vein of spectacularity was when we were merging lanes in to the Callahan Tunnel on our way to Logan during rush hour.  Charlie was very nervous about driving in the notoriously aggressive Boston traffic and was stressed that we'd crash our rental car and/or miss our flight back to California. When I pointed out that my cousin, John, was driving the car next to us and surely he'd let us merge, Charlie didn't believe me - until my cousin saw me leaning out the window and stomped on his brakes while yelling in a thick Bostonian accent, "OH MY GAWD! IS THAT MY BABY COUSIN? HOW THE HELL DID YOU GET HEYAH?" Thanks to my cousin for stopping his lane of traffic ... we merged, we returned our rental car intact, we made our flight.

We still talk about it, to this day.  


My mother was born in Dorchester and several of my relatives still live there. While not confirmed, I suspect that the Catholic church where they're holding the candlelight vigil for 8-year old Martin Richard tonight, is the same church where my Aunt Ann sings Mass every week.  The second confirmed victim, Krystle Campbell, was from Medford and Arlington. I have family there (and there), too.  All of the victims and their families are in my heart, including the culprit of this heinous crime. I'm very saddened to think of someone being so disillusioned and lost that inflicting this kind of pain on innocents would seem like a good idea. Usually after an attack of this magnitude, you hear people talk about, "Those responsible should go straight to hell."

From my perspective, they're already there. 

The longer I live, the more I realize one simple truth: all of us, every one of us, has a purpose in life. Wait, make it two simple truths... All of us have a purpose in life and that purpose is to perpetuate Good. To go against that in our current evolutionary state is to go against nature.


Last night, as I was up much too late, I turned on the television to catch the news. My news comes from Comedy Central because it is hilarious and I understand it better that way. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed President Carter. And on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed President Clinton.  Here are these two US Presidents who could have resigned from the public spotlight years ago - but are opting instead to continue their lives in service.  Clinton said, in so many words, that he is motivated to serve for selfish reasons because when he helps others, it makes the world a better place for him and hopefully, for his grandchildren one day.

Perhaps I dozed off in biology, but I'm 99.9999% sure that all of us mammals are wired to continue our species.  No surprise, President Carter's sentiments for doing good were nearly the same: Make the world a better place for future generations.  And so it is that these former Presidents are negotiating peace in war-torn countries and saving millions of people from guinea worm infestations when they could instead be playing golf.  Why? Because doing good is the best medicine for the heart, the soul, and the world - which needs to remain intact for future generations.  So in these unimaginably terrible moments, like those that existed in Boston at the finish line of the marathon yesterday, it never ceases to fill me with wonder and awe, that goodness manages to shine like a beacon, eradicating the darkness and fear and miraculously restoring faith in love and kindness and humanity.

This morning, I recounted in very general terms what happened yesterday to our children. Not surprisingly, they were full of questions. What about the people who were hurt? Did anyone die? Why would someone do something like that?  They are trying to get their minds around it, just as I am.

When I showed them a picture of the scene at the finish line, William commented, "Wow. Would you look at all the people who are out there helping!" He paused for a moment before continuing, "Someone did a really bad thing, Mom.  But I'm happy to see that there are a lot more people that are out there doing GOOD things."


I surveyed each of the pictures closely to see if I could spot my cousin, Paul, one of the many heroes on the Boston Police Force, or my sister-in-law, MaryAnn, one of the many skilled nurses at Mass General .... while also praying that the good people continue to exponentially multiply throughout our world, just as my Irish Catholic family has so successfully done throughout the state of Massachusetts.

And may God continue to bless the people of my hometown.


  1. Such a great post, Jenna! Been thinking of you...

  2. As usual, very well written. Just so you know, you are the 45 grandchild, and the last, from My parents. Donna, Uncle Ed's daughter was the first when I was 10. About this time, or before, we have a picture of me and my brothers and aunt grace, riding those swan boats in Boston Common. My Uncle, john Nee was a Gardner there for many years. You come from Good stock and I am proud of you.

  3. Nice post Jen. Thanks, Marie