When my personal fable is over and has become just another animated film in heaven, Roddy will be featured there as my life's sunshine, my soul's daily sacrament, and my heart's home. ~ William Cleary
William Cleary and Roddy O'Neil Cleary on the day of their son, Tom's, wedding
Several months after the second time I'd left the Amish, I found myself living in a third-story apartment in Burlington, Vermont, at a place where the outside doors were left unlocked at night. Sometimes people who had too much to drink at the bar below, would wander up and sit in the hallways. I didn't want to move because it was what I could afford at the time, and I worked at Zachary's Pizza across the street.Some time ago, I posted several pieces about people who have been angels along my life's journey. Today I am telling the story of another two such people.
In the same time frame, I found a church community that felt right for me. I connected with many new friends, who have become long-time friends today. Two of the people I met were Bill Cleary and Roddy O'Neil Cleary. Bill was a former Jesuit priest, and Roddy was a former Maryknoll nun. They had left their respective orders to marry one another. How about that for meeting two people who understand and and can lead me in my journey?
Bill and Roddy invited me to come and live with them. They had already housed many others who found themselves in transition. One couple, Kevin and Carol McQuillen, had traveled across the country to decide where they wanted to live. They got to Vermont and that is where they decided to stay. They lived with Bill and Roddy for several months until they found a home of their own. Another close friend was moving to Burlington from Rutland and she needed a place to live while finding an apartment.
So when Bill and Roddy invited me to stay with them, I didn't have to think about that too long. It was while I was staying with them that I started my bakery business that would continue for quite a few years, even after I married and had children.
I learned so much from Bill and Roddy: about generosity. And theirs was the more than the run-of-the-mill generosity — theirs was a generosity of soul, the kind that they invest of themselves in what they give to others. I learned what it was like to live in a functional home and that is where I first got a glimpse of what it was like to be parents to two sons. (Having no idea that this would become a reality for David and me later.) I learned that there is no need for a division between women's work and men's work. They helped me to challenge much of what I had been taught about gender roles. And they taught me what it was like to stretch one's intellectual muscles. They are two of the most intelligent people I've ever met. They also taught me how to be independent, while still thriving in a healthy couple's relationship.
I just looked for a photo in my albums of both Roddy and Bill from that time frame. I did not find one. What an oversight on my part that I didn't think about taking photos of them together. I found a recent one online at Gillian's Gems in an article called "Celebrating Roddy Cleary."
Bill has been dealing with health problems for some years. When he developed macular degeneration and lost most of his eyesight, plus he had heart disease, he said something that so captures the human condition when he said, "We all fall apart in inconvenient ways."
Roddy, being who she is, devoted her life to being with Bill and caring for him. Through her ministry, peace work, and ability to raise awareness in others, she has been an icon in the Burlington, Vermont area for many years. She has married many couples, and performed many funeral and memorial services.
Two weeks ago, while David and I were in the Midwest, we got word that Bill had "graduated" from being an angel on earth to becoming one in heaven. This is the way Roddy chose to see his leaving this earth, which makes it easier to celebrate his graduation than to mourn our loss. He will be missed, though. There is the finality of knowing that we will never see him or hear his voice again… at least not here on earth.
I will share a few photos I have of Bill from earlier on. The first was taken of him walking me to the altor at David and my wedding and was shown in the film, "The Amish." Roddy would have been on the other side of me, except that she was called away to attend her sister's funeral.
Bill walking me to the altar on my wedding day.
Son Tom is playing the piano to the left. He is a renowned musician today.
Bill told me he always wanted to wear a frilly shirt
I bought him this one for the occasion
Bill in our kitchen in Shelburne, Vermont, on one of my baking days
So today I am grateful once more… this time for two wonderfully influential people in the development of my "Self" after I left my Amish community. Peace and Blessings to them both.