A Page That Aches For A Word


“The nail bomb is an anti-personnel explosive device packed with nails to increase its effectiveness at harming victims." (Wikipedia) Death is like a nail bomb that scatters itself indiscriminately, fragmenting further what is already fragmented. It scatters people, pushes them against each other, pulls them apart. Some deaths do that.

Others are grace-filled, a grace that bathes the most severe sorrow in peace.

Those who survive have a choice to make. It's within our gift to decide what to do with what we inherit. That choice is simple enough, though never easy, when what comes to us is a loving legacy. When division is left behind, the task given us is much harder and it calls us to be more than who we are, to go far beyond ourselves, so that painful history does not have power to destroy our present and future. 

Being mourner and priest is seriously challenging, more than those closest can ever imagine. There is the moment when the Funeral Director calls him to step away from the intimacy, the warm embrace of family and friends, called to stand alone with the cold body of death. He may never learn to be professional, never able to be "in role", never able to separate the man from the priest. 

Waves of emotion, memories good and bad alike come crashing into each other. Hurts like rocks emerge. All in a split second. He might want to cry. Feel he will fall apart and surrender to the disintegration descending upon him. But he can't surrender to that. He has to steady himself as best he can. It's not about him. It's about God and the other, so he prays as God would have him pray, as the dead and the bereaved need him to pray. No matter who the deceased is, no matter how good or bad a life lived, whatever the state of the legacy, the priest sees the one created in the image and likeness of God and he sees the severity of the illness that has mined away, sucked the life out of the person, suffering that must in some way stand as recompense for any wrongs done. The priest sees this and when it is a personal grief he feels it intensely, to the point of feeling ill in his entire being.

Such are the thoughts going through my mind as the plane lifts off the ground and the song on my random playlist is "Be" from Neil Diamond's 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull', a song of ascent. "Lost on a painted sky where the clouds are hung for the poet's eye."

In September I used a phrase from the same song for the late Fr. Michael Cremin - a song in search of a voice. There's another phrase from it that I have often applied to myself - "Be as a page that aches for a word that speaks on a theme which is timeless."

A blank page that aches for the ink of other people's sorrow, their brokenness, anger, pain, their hatred - as well, of course, their love and goodness and joy. But the need of sorrow is more urgent, intense and it is written upon the blank page of my heart, written by God in a way that makes sense of what baffles us, in a language that God knows,  language that God's Holy Spirit can teach us to translate in ways that are not verbal.
DEBRIS OF HUMAN FRAILTY

Bare trees
Naked rosebush
Spiking the dawn

Dripping drops of dew
The tears I cannot shed

My heart a mayhem of crows
Swooping on a single seagull
Outside in the Green
Where we played by day
And partied by night

Until grief disfigured our joy
Love fatally fractured

The man has died
He who became my enemy

We made our peace
A defrosting
Long before it was too late

Yet still a broken legacy
Remains

The wounds of hate
The scars of love
Debris of human frailty

We must stand still
And wait for God
To win the victory
For us all




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