Last week I learned that my spiritual director, Donita Harris, died from cancer.
About two and a half years ago I decided I would try spiritual direction again after a long hiatus. Donita was recommended to me, and after our first conversation it was clear she was someone from whom I could learn much.
A good spiritual director helps you listen to the deepest parts of yourself, and Donita was good.
We would meet every couple months in her home on the southeast side of Columbus. I loved the room. The artwork on the walls spoke of the African and feminine cords woven through Donita’s spirit. We would begin by sitting quietly, perhaps five minutes. Donita would end the silence with a blessing for the time. Once she began by giving thanks for the sounds of the natural and human-made worlds we had heard, the swirl of the soundscape we inhabit. I liked that she said swirl, and we talked about that for a while.
I rarely entered these times with something pressing. It was more a matter of starting to talk and seeing where it led. Donita would ask good questions, suggest where to probe deeper, and offer insight. She frequently reminded me to think in both/and terms rather than either/or. She counseled me to be gentle with myself when my inner critic was overly loud.
One time we met when Abbie and the girls had been out of town all week. She asked me what I was noticing in my solitude. Sometimes her listening evoked good questions out of my own mouth. “How did I get here?” I heard myself ask one time, pondering early middle age, fatherhood, pastorhood, and sanctuary.
One of the things I most appreciated about Donita was her expansive spirituality. She would quote Richard Rohr: “Everything belongs.” We would talk about the poet Rilke: “I live my life in widening circles.” She reminded me, every time we met, of the immensity of the Love in which I dwell. It is the same Love in which she continues to dwell, now beyond our seeing.
Donita was a source of wisdom for me, a spiritual companion. I’m so honored to have known her. I will miss her. May the memory of her be a blessing.