“Why is he here?”, someone piqued indignantly
near the very reverent back pew of the big church.
Into the cavernous silence he moved with noisy ataxia.
After an exchange with an usher, he stumbled to a seat,
stepping on toes and into purses. A compact cracked.
Prelude. Collect. Prayer. Then he started his homily.
Yes, homily. From my seat I couldn’t hear most of it.
Except the staff-sargeantly “Amen” barked out above
a choral anthem, scripture reading or responsive psalm.
I kept thinking someone would move. But no one did.
He dropped a coin in the offering plate. It fell noiselessly
on a bed of bills, pealing the halls of Heaven.
“Our father,” he spoke, dysarthrically delayed. “For thine
is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory… Amen.
Semper Fi forever!” Then it struck home. A wounded
warrior come to worship. Where had he been? What
had he seen? Where was he now? He dragged a
sack of Hell into the Holy nave. Yet nothing burned.
No one was condemned. The passing of the peace.
The blessed sacrament. The bread and wine. All of it.
Always given. Always claimed. Always faithful.
As he limped away, a voice cried in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way!” A soldier’s big church benediction.
He comes to the river on Sundays
when oak and sycamore and beech
get their crowns of morning light
from the benevolent hands of sunrise.
One with voices of the singing shoals
he makes his prayer of remembrance
in the bank bottom forest of forgetting,
looking down on eddies of joy and sorrow
born and dying in the water-turned-sky
of the spring-fed fountain of his life.
The ground beneath is Holy with leaves.
Taking three, he casts them in the current
and bows his heart to the miracle of
tripartite death turned to dancing
on the wind-stirred waters of autumn.
Rise up sweet soul with wings of the dawn;
the sorrow has ended, the shadows have flown.
Take Heaven in your hands and never let go—
The Spirit is calling you home.
A clear horizon awaits your eyes;
Deep blue forever before you lies.
That great eternal rest for the soul has been won—
Lie down with the setting sun.
The life you lived will carry us on.
Your faith and compassion will be our song.
We’ll be together again when life becomes light—
In a land where there’s no more night.
I believe there are certain places, specific environments for each of us that retain spiritual energy or significance in our lives because of what has transpired there. These may be places where meaningful events have occurred, where we have come into immediate contact with the loving presence of God through relationships with others, through suffering, death or loss, through life-changing blessings, or through other circumstances which have transformed us and brought growth. I feel these places forever are marked with this energy; are hallowed, so to speak, and if possible, we should look for opportunities to revisit such places as life moves on, in a spirit of gratitude, homage and awe.
nothing, no one
can erase the Name
given to every soul
before the birth of time
spoken in the
Some mornings on my way to work
I see him waiting, anxious to cross
when traffic has slowed.
At times, I catch him heading back
with a loaf of bread or quart of milk,
leaning and limping.
We hurry on. Mustn’t be late, we say.
I’ve never seen anyone with him.
I’m late for work.
He is old.
Some days are hot. Some, rainy or cold.
Seasons change. His clothes do not.
Plaid, untucked, short-sleeve shirt,
work pants like my Grandpa wore –
too large for his legs.
In my rear view, he shuffles back,
bags in hand.
Cars come faster. I wonder…
What will happen
with the hobbling hands of time?
Will work-bound drivers
slow to stopping like they used to
for processions of the dead?
Here’s a more pressing question.
Would I slow to a stop
if I passed that way today?