Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
his sojourn in Northern Ireland'

Possessed by our possessions?

Jon Kennedy  

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A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day... 30,000 to a man's 15,000. The wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men..." The husband then turned to his wife and asked, "What?"


It's not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you've lived.

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JONAL ENTRY 1263 | March 12 2013

I'm writing from the waiting area for Gate A4 at SFO, San Francisco International Airport, scheduled to depart for London and then on to Dublin, at 8:45 p.m. a bit over an hour from now. To update my previous post, my British visa allowing me to work long term in Belfast, Northern Ireland, arrived the morning after my original flight was scheduled, February 28. This was a better outcome than I expected when I wrote you on that date, as I was envisioning a week to find out why my visa had been delayed and then another week or more to receive it. And of course it was all Providential, by which I mean it was in God's control and timing (but maybe sometime I should philosophize here about why despite my great general optimism about life, I'm often very pessimistic about short-range events and outcomes).

My coworker/hosts in Belfast, Marda and Ward Stothers, encouraged me to rebook my flight and try to get there as quickly as possible, which is what I'm doing.

Meanwhile—and this is the evidence of God's guidance and timing—the sale of my mobile home is much closer to reality now. I learned just this morning, in fact, that the MH park has approved my prospective buyer for residency in the park, which seemed to be the final hurdle to get the transaction through escrow. Also, meanwhile, my daughter Chris and I have cleared out all of my furnishings and accoutrements from the place, whereas if I had flown on February 28 a much greater task would have fallen on her (I am giving her a sizable commission on the sale of the place for all of her help). And in consequence of learning that my buyer has qualified, I signed a termination of my residency contract with the park today, effective this Saturday, March 16. That date, since I won't be there any more beginning tonight, is because Chris DeMille, who had been paying a share of the property expenses in order to have a room there, had paid up through March 15.

For years, I have told the children that I expected to live at that address for the rest of my life, and now—after living there for more than 27 years—that chapter has been closed. I was going to say next that I am now in fact homeless, but that's not the real case; I now "reside" in Belfast and hope to be doing so for the next two years, Lord willing. But now I have no telephone service, though my email will continue at the same addresses (,,

What a learning experience it was to dispose of most of my belongings over the past month. At my age, I should be prepared for that phase of life in which everything material is put aside to embark on the spiritual aferlife when even our bodies are put aside to await the general resurrection. So it should be instructive to give up most of my possessions, my televisions and computer monitors, my hundreds of books lining the walls of several rooms, all the audio tapes I used to listen to and the hundreds of videotapes that were watched to great enjoyment. But tapes have gone out of style, replaced by digital recordings on hard drives, storage drives, "the cloud," and thumb drives and SD cards. One of the hardest "possessions" I had to part with was the digital video recorder that came with my Dish subscription and the dozens of programs I had saved to watch on it at a better time.

My flight is beginning to board, so I will have to interrupt this until we're airborne and allowed to use electronic devices.

An hour or so later... The monitor on the seatback in front of me says the remaining flight time is 8:22 hours. We've been told dinner will be served soon and even now stewards are proceeding through the aisles offering first beverages. Domestic flights still have drinks and "snacks" (a small bag of pretzels or peanuts, usually) but no longer offer free meal service. Only the overseas flights retain that now...we heard also that we'll be getting breakfast before arriving at Heathrow-London.

Back to our possessions and how possessed we are by them! As I went through the days of getting rid of things, I occasionally said, "this is what my life has been," or this is what represents it. These books, these notebooks, these manuscripts, copies of magazines, newspapers, and books I have written articles for, written, edited or published. At one point the house was piled high with things to be hauled away, and I thought in passing, "my life is a pile of rubble."

I had to unpack boxes and bags I had not looked into for decades, and found myself revisiting parts of my past long since gone. I boxed up more than 50 pounds of notebooks, letters, diaries, and sample publications my work has appeared in and sent it to the Historical Society in Nanty Glo, my home town, where they may be made available as "my papers" some day (professional writers usually leave behind their "papers") to be used by anyone wanting to drop into the life and times of a smalltown newspaper editor, and later the author of other miscellaneous material, of the middle of the twentieth century and on into the early years of the twenty-first. As already mentioned on its pages, the Nanty Glo Home Page website that has been one of my avocations for the past 15 years, has already been designated in a trust to the Historical Society to be used as another resource of our era and our area.

But possessions, even accomplishments we may like to claim, are not life. In fact, they often get in the way and diminish life. "To me," Paul the Apostle wrote, "to live is Christ." Anything else, however much it once may have seemed essential to life, is just rubble, if not yet, soon enough. History is significant for teaching future generations what has happened, why we are where we are, what shaped our times and our personalities ... perhaps where we want to go, and though all that is something (some of it may be useful in the crafting of a future dramatic script, for example), it doesn't save anyone.

I won't be able to send this out, now that I'm airborne, until I finally get to Belfast and am able to use the wifi there, so here I'll close this first journal of my sojourn.

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If you missed my earlier entry giving an overview of my new venture in Northern Ireland, check it out here.

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