Thursday, August 20, 2009
(Some of the clergy in Concord rotate authorship of a column in the local weekly, The Concord Journal. Here's my entry for this week's "Voices of Faith.")
No cell phone pictures here, just a few prose “snapshots of summer” from the last couple of weeks…
• Just before the elevator door closed, another hotel guest and his five or six year-old son came aboard, fresh from the Marriott indoor pool. With a towel around his still wet shoulders the youngster looked up at me and with triumph in his voice announced, “We were in the pool!” Before I had a chance to respond he gushed, “We were in BOTH pools: the cold one and the hot one!” He paused, his grin in freeze frame, now hungry for reply so I asked, “Which pool did you like more - the cold one or the hot one?” He shot a glance to his dad and I knew I’d asked a difficult question. “It’s just too hard to know,” he said, “they were both so great!” The elevator chimed, the door opened and we all made our exit. They turned left as I headed right and a young voice called out, “And we’re goin’ in the pool tomorrow, too!”
A child splashing unrestrained joy from a pool somewhere deep in his heart… For the gift of such moments, I praise God!
• At the church, for the funeral, he sat in a front pew, his wheeled walker standing guard at his side, ready to steady his step and make safe whatever short path he might need to travel. At the cemetery, those same wheels walked him to his sister’s grave. The path from car to casket began on blacktop until it met an uneven slope of lawn leading to a mat of plastic grass covered in floral arrangements carefully placed, insuring that no one see the waiting, yawning mouth of earth around which we had gathered. Escorted by the more sure-footed but under his own steam he walked and wheeled his way to pray a goodbye to his last sibling. Well maybe not so much a farewell as “See you soon, Mary, I’m coming right behind you…” And then back down the slope to the car and a ride home to wait for the day when others will come to pray for him.
The path may be decades long but it does not end in a cemetery. Burial grounds are, after all, but resting places. An easier, peaceful leg of the journey waits and will lead to where we’ll see each other again. Yes, Mary, we’re all coming right behind you...
• Halfway through my vacation I stopped in at a laundromat in Hyannis to restock my suitcase with clean clothes. My eye’s camera focused on a young couple and their infant. They spoke a language I didn’t recognize so I’m not sure if the baby was a boy or a girl. What I am sure of is how much these parents loved their child and each other. It’s amazing what can be revealed in glances, touches, tones of voice and laughter. The couple shared some silent moments, too, gazing on their little one with the wonder that only a newborn can waken in us. Once, I caught the father watching his wife studying their child. When she became aware of her husband’s gaze she took his hand and for a while they simply looked into each other’s eyes. Then, as if on cue (or perhaps one hand squeezed another’s) they both looked back to the baby, sharing something only they could hear or know.
What they wore and what they washed were not the stylish togs of Cape tourists. Before they left they folded their laundry into a large plastic trash bag and piled into a car that has seen better days and many miles. Against the backdrop of Hyannis center in mid-August, this young family might appear to have been wanting for many things. But of love, intimacy, joy and hope they had plenty: an abundance of the truly finer things in life.
Summer’s not over yet. Keep your eyes open for moments of grace like these and store them in the album of your heart.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 6:00 PM