In Gratitude: Sgt. Steve Owen; Mollie Lowery; Ray Milefsky

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Gratitude has no memory, or so I often grouse to myself; it only recollects the formulaic words that acknowledge service rendered, and then dispenses with any further need to consider the consequences of appreciation. Occasionally, an individual’s contribution is honored by a street or highway being named in her or his honor, but rarely do such passageways intersect. While one person’s extension into the lives of others almost always constitutes a community with no direct contact with another person’s assemblage of comrades, coworkers, friends, and affectionate affiliations, one nevertheless can imagine the possibility of an encounter between the distant trajectories of parallel lives. Perhaps this is the most feasible sense of an afterlife: the moment when we pause and think of those who deserved to have met and shared a long meal, even if their lives seemed extraordinarily different.

In this instance, I call to mind three people: Sgt. Steve Owen; Mollie Lowery; and Ray Milefsky. Sgt. Steve Owen was the most recent of the three to die. According to news sources, a burglary suspect has been arrested on suspicion of being the person who murdered Sgt. Owen when Owen was investigating a burglary in progress in Lancaster, California (in northern Los Angeles County). The tributes to Owen mark him as a model sheriff’s deputy, a man who practiced the virtues of caring for those in need on a daily basis. Mollie Lowery equaled, if not surpassed, Owen in giving of herself to those less fortunate. That fate spared her a violent death seems more a matter of chance, for the homeless population Lowery worked amongst most certainly made her vulnerable to being in the wrong place in the wrong time. Both Owen and Lowery gave of themselves by voluntarily being in “the wrong place” as a matter of heroic vocation. In both DTLA and Lancaster, which is to say both at the center and periphery, their names should meet in mutual honor.

The third person I have mentioned, Ray Milefsky, lived on the other side of the country. His public service was more bureaucratically conventional, and yet he seems to have had the gift of resolving boundary disputes in a manner that forestalled violent confrontations. His abilities required hard-won knowledge of both geography and culture, and it will not be easy to replace him with someone of equal dexterity. Milefsky’s friends and associates considered him a polyglot, but the most intimate language he spoke was the one heard in the soul’s ear, the emphatic whisper heard at great distances by Owen and Lowery, too: reconciliation is unceasing; whatever you do to bring that about, let not the lack of gratitude dismay you. Let each life be a prayer of gratitude unto itself. As for those who mourn, let the final, inconsolable syllable somehow be uttered in hopeful grief.

Mollie Lowery (August 2, 1945 – July 25, 2016)
Ray Milefsky (February 20, 1949 – August 1, 2016)
Sgt. Steve Owen (died in the line of duty, October 5, 2016)

(In Gratitude)
If our voices are lifted in radiant praise
through sleepless nights and tumultuous days,
then let us remember the source of our grace
and know that redemption is now taking place.

(Note: The above fragment of a hymn was written on a walk, on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 – 8:20 – 8:33 p.m.)


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