Hold It All


Category: Mev Puleo

Share the Wealth with Brittany, Julia, and Suzy: Reflections from the 2017 Mev Puleo Program

We–Brittany Butler (junior), Suzy Kickham (sophomore), and Julia Nouse (sophomore)–spent 10 weeks studying liberation theology and living in community in Nicaragua this past summer. Now, after six months back in the states, lessons we learned in accompaniment, community, and gratitude have continued to shape us. We hope to share with you all some of our experiences of both joy and brokenness.

While we will begin by sharing stories, we mostly hope to foster a conversation during which we can all share and reflect together.

Join us
Sunday 18 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Sharing begins at 6:45
At the home of Julia Brucks
2819A Shenandoah
Saint Louis, MO

Suzy, Julia, Abbie, Brittany


Hair/2 (Letting Go/2)

The following is from The Book of Mev….

(Letting Go/2)

The next day we met with Dr. Friedberg, who recommended we see a couple of neurosurgeons to see what could be done about the brain tumor Mev evidently did have. The second one we saw, Dr. Robert Fink, shared the various options, and we decided that Mev should undergo a de-bulking surgery as soon as possible. We came to this decision on a Tuesday and the surgery was scheduled for three days later. Family began to arrive day after day to offer their support and love. Friends from the Jesuit School of Theology held an all-night prayer vigil for Mev the evening before her surgery, while at our apartment, Steve Kelly presided at a liturgy with much appreciated grace and calm. One of our friends, who wasn’t religious at all, came, and said to us afterward, “If all Masses or services were like this one, I could see why people would wanna go, even I was moved.”

That April Friday morning, Mev and I, her parents, her sisters, our friends in Berkeley and a few from St. Louis all arose at the early hour of 5 a.m. to make our way to the Alta Bates Hospital at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. After checking in at the hospital, we prepared ourselves for a long, uncertain morning. One of the necessary preludes to the surgery was the shaving of Mev’s hair. Soon after that, she would be taken away for the surgery. I wanted to be with her as long as possible, so I stayed in an adjoining room as the nurse kindly and soothingly prepared Mev for a haircut unlike any other she had had. One of the hospital staff told me the previous day that nurses were quite sensitive and skilled in this part of their job, since many women about to have Mev’s kind of surgery would go to pieces at the thought of losing their hair. Mev appeared quite steady as I gave her a kiss before leaving her with the nurse for the few minutes it would take to cut off her hair. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Have Fun

Mev taught me something very important: She taught me that when you go to Ted Drewes you could mix all different kinds of frozen custard flavors together. I would never have dreamed of some of the possibilities she tried. Mev loved ice cream and she loved desserts – the richer the better, the more varied the better.

—Teka Childress, eulogy from 1996; quoted in The Book of Mev

Thirty Years Ago

Mev, roof of Jesuit Hall, SLU, circa 1987, photo by John Kavanaugh

Dear Noam

I’m currently facilitating an on-line class, Be in Love with Yr Life, based on The Book of Mev, with 11 very special people.  The other day, I posted a short response  to a Barsamian/Chomsky book, and afterwards, going through my files, I found the following letter.


Wednesday 9 October 1996
Professor Noam Chomsky
M.I.T./ 20D-219
Cambridge, MA

Dear Noam,

I hope you are doing well  these days.  To refresh your memory, since I know you receive hundreds of letters, I invited you to speak at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley a couple of years ago (while a student at the Maryknoll School of Theology in 1990, I did a thesis on your Mideast work).  Your visit then was just before the time that my wife Mev Puleo was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.   Mev died this past January  at the age of 32 after a long and excruciating deterioration here in St. Louis.  Actually, she took pictures at your talk to us on “Intellectuals and Political Responsibility” —  that was the last  shooting she did before her surgery. (One of her photos appears in the enclosed review).

Anyway, I have been slow to resume my work since it has been quite difficult to face the loss of wife, partner, and best friend, in addition to someone whose commitment to solidarity was simply exemplary.  I am hoping to finish soon  my doctoral dissertation for the GTU on Elie Wiesel; your work has been immensely helpful to me as I  examine the connections between Wiesel’s work of memory and his august status in the U.S. intellectual and political community.  (I’ve recently written Professor Shahak to see if he had translations on Wiesel’s reception in Israel, to which you’ve referred). I am hoping to trace the evolution of Wiesel from “unworthy victim” to most “worthy victim,” in your and Ed Herman’s classification.  You were the first person I’d ever read who dissented from  the strong Christian consensus that Wiesel is a prophet of our times. Read the rest of this entry »

“Be in Love with Yr Life” — A Online Summer Writing Course with The Book of Mev*

From time to time I’ve learned how some readers of The Book of Mev recognize themselves in Mev Puleo’s words, say, from her letters and journals. They remind of the French novelist Marcel Proust, who wrote: “In reality every reader is, while she is reading, the reader of her own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable her to discern what, without this book, she could perhaps never have perceived in herself.”

In this late summer-early fall writing class, I invite you to read (or reread) and write off of stories, themes, and questions from The Book of Mev. We’ll explore topics like being present, community, accompaniment, faith, spirituality, the state of the world, the state of the soul,  friends, mentors, teachers, creative arts (e.g., photography), travel, breakdowns, breakthroughs, illness, celebrating, grieving, letting go, poetry, El Salvador, Palestine, Haiti, schools, gospels, letter-writing, gratitude, bearing witness, and much else.

We go  for eight sessions,  from Sunday 20 August to Sunday 8 October.  Each Sunday I will email participants an agenda  to direct reading, writing, and sharing in the week ahead.

Time Commitment:  You’ll need approximately 1 to 2 hours a week, more if you have the energy.  It’s not necessary to do an entire agenda in one sitting; feel free to space it out over the week. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News of Remembering, 3.18.2017

Yesterday I caught up with Liz Burkemper, home for spring break from her first year at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.  Liz inspires me with her aspiration to simplify her life and take time for contemplation. I told her I was grateful for her remembering Mev and her Brazil message  at some of the vast and lively protests she participated in in January and February.

“To Love Others Is All We Can Do” by Rachel Nass

Rachel 1

Rachel 2

The Holy Texture of Life (Hold It All)

By chance yesterday I came  across the following reflection by Emily Warming from 2007, when she was in a Justice and Peace Senior Seminar with Roger Bergman at Creighton University.  I have been blessed and inspired by many Creighton friends, like Emily, who have been deep  readers and enthused hallowers of life.

I was nervous for Mark Chmiel to come to Creighton. Mev only died a week ago for me. I was grieving and it seemed like he were coming to Creighton to help us bury her. How do we talk about this book with this man? How do we even begin to address the flash, the brilliance, the ahh! bright wings of Mev? She so radiated and resonated with us. Presente! She is with us. The book was so personal, so broken open, receptive and burning of suffering and joy, so sacred in some way. The many voices; the concrete manifestations of exhilaration, edification, frustration; the crushing grief; the inexplicable soaring of heart; the hope hope hope made this book breathe with the holy texture of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Wilder Love by April Ulinski

Started rereading The Book of Mev last night. Partially because I needed her reminder that being academic does not mean being disengaged from the world

and from the people behind all those ideas.

Also because I wanted to be near Mev
Though I have never known her.

Thank you for sharing her,
And thank you for sharing you
And the love between the two of you

love draws new dimensions of us love comes to surprise us
Out of our small safe place
Into the wild home we didn’t even think to ask for.

Maybe love is wilder when it is not just for us
But the community too
And loss is love’s coda.

“Do this in remembrance of me”