Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Saddest Sentence

It was the saddest sentence I’ve ever heard. My dad lay in ICU. Lisa was his nurse. Tubes come out his mouth, blood drips from his nose. Lisa walks to the other side of the bed and faces me, cleaning my dad with white towel. We make light conversation, discourse on dads’ courses—how much he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner.

“Your mom came by this morning,” she says. I let it pass the first time. The next time she alluded to ‘your mom’ I clarified, “She’s not my mom. Dad’s remarried. Mom died a year-and-a-half ago.”

“Sorry,” she said. “I understand stepmom’s.” There we stood talking casually as if on a bus or in a checkout line while Lisa adjusted pillows and settled my father. She went on to tell me about her new marriage to her second husband, about her first husband meeting someone and moving away. Tying together the catastrophe that was her first marriage and the convenience that was her second she said, “I’ve given up on forever.”

I cry during movies. It’s not really crying per se---I get choked up and my eyes get extra water in them. When the boy gets the girl, when the pitcher gets his second chance at fame, when the bully finds redemption I get choked up. I’m guessing it happens to you too.

The core of our nature is to hope against all hope that good will triumph. We are wired with eternity in our hearts, a seed planted to believe in forever. To kill the seed is to sin against the eternal. Encasing the seed in steel so that it will not grow violates nature. I understand the pain that places the seed in the box. I hope that it doesn’t die in dark but breaks through to new light.

Abraham comes to mind. “In hope against hope he believed,” the scriptures say that he believed that what God promised He was able to perform---in this instance to give him and Sarah a child in their later years. God performs the impossible over and over, hope against hope, cards stacked, death against life and life wins.

Today is sandwiched between Christmas and New Years. The child born of hope, the new year celebrated and anticipated. We clink our glasses at midnight and put hands to the plow on Monday morning. Let us find the courage to stay in the marriage and believe in romance. We shall labor and believe that the work will benefit soul and pocket. May we die to self and love each other. My hope is that at the end of the road we may hear a voice whisper just before they turn out the light, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quote of the Week-G.K. Chesterton

For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre's castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Five Smooth Stones

For Val, my smooth stone...

"He...chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd's bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine."-1 Samuel 17:40

Were they rough and jagged, large as meteorite,
When the fountains of the deep and floodgates of the sky,
Burst forth?
Mountains molded,
Chipped and chiseled,
Clanging, banging, against each other,
Sand on boulders,
Churning five smooth stones.

The God of Heaven,
Who measured the waters of Earth,
In hollowed hand,
Throws these meteors
Into His toy rock tumbler,
He who calculates the dust of the earth,
Waits and watches,
Creating five smooth stones.

The anointed David,
Who tended the family sheep,
With sharp eye and rugged hand,
Throws these stones,
Felling the taunter of God,
He who delivers from paw of lion and bear,
Delivers coming king,
Casting five smooth stones.

Elect and living stones,
Creatures of dust and water,
With fumbling hands,
Dare we doubt, do we fear?
We overwhelmingly conquer through,
Him who holds both rocks and king,
Descendant of David, Messiah God,
Crying out five smooth stones.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Like a Pat Conroy Novel

His works read like this: Man leaves broken marriage to save sister from suicide. Man and sister’s brokenness is due to parental vacuousness and violence. Dark fruit falls from the family tree; line upon line, violence on violence. All set against bridges, bayous, brackish water and French colonial buildings of the South. Such are the novels of Pat Conroy. Talking with my sister made me feel as if I had just stepped into the middle of a Conroy novel (or into the movie, “Walk Hard”).

Pulling me aside at my fathers’ memorial service she whispered, “This may help explain your father...” I already knew the story, no need for her to repeat it. My father was one of three children; Julius, Leo and Rhoda; Julius being the oldest. Julius, the oldest and favorite son was diagnosed with something akin to Rheumatic Fever. The family moved to a drier climate ending in California. While Leo was a teen, Julius succumbed to the disease. Dads’ parents told him that the wrong son had died.

Fast forward a generation---My aunt Rhoda lies on her deathbed and tells my sister another story. My grandfathers’ will left my aunt a small bequest. The will leaves one-dollar to my father. So my aunt, ever the peacemaker, split her inheritance with my father. My father gave it to his 2nd wife to invest in her business.

Fifteen years later my fathers’ will leaves five-hundred dollars to my sister; one-dollar, adjusted for inflation. A series of events led to separation between sis and my dad. Snippets I remember, I don’t remember much, am certain the sister remembers more. Bathroom door with holes; altar to a fit of violence; phone cords ripped out of a teen-age girls’ wall, hard words and failures to give grace.

The dark fruit fully ripens. The daughter tires of pursuing relationship with the father, the son vows (early on) to never be angry and out of control. Dark fruit opens to seed…ever to continue the line of violence?

Bitterness and betrayal read well but are crushing and painful spelled out. It has been written that God “will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren…” Bad fruit is redeemed by the Wine of redemption spilling into family lines and breaking violence. Conroy novels generally end on a note of redemption. May we say when the last page has turned that the story was worth the telling.