by Janice Christensen ED NOTE: This was offered as an invocation at the November 11 Riverwest Neighborhood Association meeting, and we have been asked to print it here. We need to take a moment this evening to mark the passing of our friend and strong community co-worker, Maria Karpfinger. Maria passed away last Tuesday, November 4. She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends in the neighborhood. Maria came back to Milwaukee from New York City several years ago to be with her family during the time of her parents’ final illnesses. Her parents both passed away in 2006, her father in March, and her mother in June. Since that time she became very involved with our neighborhood. She was involved with greenspace issues, urban gardening, ecological education, the RNA and the Riverwest Co-op. Her enjoyment of sharing knowledge about the natural world was apparent to anyone who worked with her. Maria’s friends have noticed that she has become sad and distant in the last months, and many of us have been concerned about her. Many of us feel shamed and guilty that we somehow did not do enough to ease Maria’s pain. We are, each of us, private persons, and have boundaries beyond which others do not come. It’s difficult for us to push or pry our way into the private lives of those around us. We are sensitive to their boundaries, often hesitating to ask questions that are, we believe, none of our business. Likewise, many of us have wandered, ourselves, in that country where Maria eventually lost her life. The fact that we are all sitting here together this evening shows that somehow we found some signpost that directed us out again. That signpost might have been love, or anger, or responsibility, or a calling, or even inaction or weakness or cowardice. It was probably different for each of us. But many of us have known that country. And many of us will wander in it again. There might not be much that we, as individuals, can do to ease the pain or call back a spirit who is in that land. However, we can, as a community, make a pledge to each other. We can pledge to be courageously nosy. We can pledge to make time for each other. We can pledge to ask the uncomfortable questions that show that we care for each other. We can also pledge, as the strong and fragile and foolish people that we are, that we will look for the signposts when we are lost and wandering. We can pledge to remember the pain and guilt and shame we feel about Maria’s death, and promise to ask for help when we need it. Because we need US. We need all of us. We need our weaknesses and our strengths. We need our brilliance and our shortcomings. We need our tolerance and our bullheadedness. We can pledge to do all we can to not deprive each other of the individuals we are. We are planning two community meetings to talk about the “darkness before dawn” that affects many of us at this time of year. Please plan to attend one or both. The first will be held on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 pm. The second date is to be determined. The gatherings will be held at the Pink House Studio, 601 East Wright Street. There will be fliers available at the Riverwest Co-op and other locations. Please join us.