Tag Archives: remembrance

The burden of the living

One last time I straightened my tie.
Unable to forestall the inevitable,
I donned my coat, picked up
the burden of the living
and left my apartment.

Into the cold, grey New York day
I walked to Broadway and turned
toward Union Seminary bearing
the burden of the living
to the scheduled service.

A cab pulled up as I crossed the street,
I noticed others walking – some I knew,
some I did not – all carrying
the burden of the living,
the weight slowing their steps

From east and west, north and south,
many faiths and colors we gathered
in the chapel accompanied by
the burden of the living
held in common, yet unique.

Strains of Springsteen greeted us.
Hearts ached, tears flowed,
as in a fog, shrouded by
the burden of the living
we remembered, sang and prayed.

Parents, siblings, colleagues, friends
we filled that sacred space
and, for a brief, precious time, found
the burden of the living
lessened for being shared.

Songs sung, prayers prayed, after
one last hug, one last, cold tear, we go
into the evening accompanied by
the burden of the living,
giving thanks for Annie Rawlings’ life.

With thanks to my friend Yena Hwang for the image
Shire on the Hudson
Manhattan, New York
12 November 2013

 

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Filed under Family, New York

Thirty years

He winced as he stepped from the carriage,
pain shooting through his leg.
His leg.
Always his leg.
After thirty years, his leg.
A leg, he knew, that could have been lost
on that long ago, hellish April day.

He took the cane the young man offered,
nodding his thanks.
Silently he started across the lane into the woods.
“Do you know …?”
Before the young man could finish,
he cut him short with a growl:
“I remember.”
And to himself, he softly said:
“I will always remember.”

Moving with surprising quickness,
he left the young man behind and
descended toward the creek.
He stumbled once,
caught his balance with the cane,
stopped to rub his thigh,
and then continued.

At the creek he paused and
looked carefully around.
The young man came up beside him.
Their eyes met briefly;
he shook his head and started forward.
Water splashed his pants
as the rocks shifted slightly
beneath his weight.

Across, he climbed the gentle rise.
Roots tugged at his feet,
briars clawed at his clothes —
once tearing his hand.

Only when he crested the rise
did he slow his pace.
The young man came to his side and asked,
“Are you sure?”
“I remember,” he said.
And as he started to walk again, he softly said,
“I will always remember.”

On through the woods he walked,
the young man sometimes at his side,
sometimes falling behind.

When he saw the crosses,
simple, wooden crosses
that marked a slight depression in the ground,
he stopped. “This is the place?” the young man said.
“Stay here,” he ordered and he stepped
to the depression’s side.

He noticed the blood on his hand
as he reached into his jacket.
For several moments, he stared at the
thin trickles that made a spider-web pattern.
He wiped the blood on his pants,
made sure his hand was clean, and took
a silver flask from his inner pocket.

“I’m back.”
He spoke to the air
to the ground
to the ghosts of those who lay
in the common grave before him.
“Thirty years gone. But I am back.”

He breathed deeply, then spoke again.
“I remember.”
Looking down, he repeated,
“I will always remember.”

He removed the flask top and
gestured toward the depression.
“I remember. I will always remember.”

Raising the flask to his lips,he leaned back his head
and drank deeply.
Then carefully, reverently, slowly
he poured the contents on the ground before him.

“For you.
My comrades. My friends. My brothers.
Thirty years.
And still I remember.
I will always remember.”

A solitary tear escaped
from the moisture pooled in his eyes,
coming to rest in his snarled, gray beard.
He stood in silence for ten brief, eternal seconds.

Then, stopping the flask, he turned
to begin his journey back to the carriage.
He winced as the motion sent
pain shooting through his leg.
Always the leg.
After thirty years, the leg.

5 August 2013
Corinth, Mississippi
Inspired by a visit to
a Confederate Burial Trench
at Shiloh National Military Park.

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Filed under National Park, Travel

First came baseball

baseball_2I am not sure I would have asked the question. Too many people have experienced abuse, abandonment, failure to love, and more from their fathers. Too many fathers have died too young. Too many wounds remain unhealed.

“What is your favorite memory of your father or your father figure?” Bob Brashear, pastor of West-Park Presbyterian Church, asked near the end of his sermon today.

My first thoughts went to those who had negative experiences of their fathers. I felt my heartstrings tightened as I considered the profound pain the simple question could touch.

Images of my father, gone too long, filled my head and heart. He was not perfect. None of us are. But he was a good, good man who loved me and my brother and sister well.

Memories came at me as thick as gnats on a hot, sultry night. When it came my turn to speak, I went with my first memories:

“Baseball. Playing catch in the back yard. Going to games. Baseball. In Pittsburgh.” I remembered, although I did not share, that as I child, when I would have to go to bed before a Pirates game finished, I would wake up in the morning to find a piece of paper with the score written in my father’s handwriting.

Memories. Blessed memories. As I rejoice in mine, my heart goes out to those who know pain.

Happy Father’s Day to fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, and all, male and female alike, who have filled the role of fathers.

See you along the Trail.

P.S.:
Dodgers 3
Pirates 6

 

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19 March 2013, Republic of Korea

After spending the night in Gunsan, JC Lee drove us to the Saemangeum Seawall. The misty morning made it a bit hard to see. Our next stop was in Gwangju. We met with some pastors for a traditional lunch. After lunch, I spoke with a group of pastors. A trip to the National Cemetery for the May 18 Democratic Uprising followed. This profound site houses the remains of individuals killed during the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising.

The May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising was an expression of civilian dissatisfaction with a military junta that had seized power, thus circumventing the progress of democracy in the Republic of Korea. On May 17, 1980, the leaders of the junta declared martial law in an effort to consolidate power and to suppress the people’s growing demand for democratization. The government sent troops, including paratroopers and elite unites, to the major cities.

IMG_0197The beginning of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising is marked as the morning of May 18, 1980 when students in front of Chonnam National University were beaten and chased off by troops. Demonstrations and confrontations continued until May 27 when the troops put down the uprising.

As is often the case in such situations, conflicting casualty reports are given. The May 18 Memorial Foundation reports:

4,369 all told: 154 killed, 74 missing, 4,141 wounded (including those who died from their wounds) and placed under arrest. This data is based on the present condition of compensation related to The May 18 Uprising, as of November 31, 2006.

Other sources report other casualty figures.

The martial law forces took the bodies of civilians killed, using garbage trucks, for burial in the Mangwol-dong Cemetery. Through the years, pro-democracy advocates and citizens of the Republic of Korea called for investigations and reconsideration of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. Many believe that the uprising exposed the immorality of the regime and led to the beginning of greater democracy. The participants in the uprising played a pivotal role in the movement of the Republic Korea to independence, democracy, and peace.

In 1997, the graves of those killed in the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising were exhumed and their remains re-interred in the National Cemetery for the May 18 Democratic Uprising. As well as the graves, the cemetery includes a cultural hall that tells the story of the uprising and a room with photographs of many of those killed. The National Cemetery provides a moving tribute to the vision, commitment, and sacrifice of the participants in the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. It is a reminder of these people and a witness to the ideals of democracy for which they gave their lives. It is also a testament to the people of the Republic of Korea and their efforts to come to terms with the past to move into the future.

See you along the Trail.

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Purple flowers, Dublin Garden of Remembrance

Dublin Garden of Remembrance, April 28, 2012

We arrived at the
Garden of Remembrance in Dublin
almost a year
after Queen Elizabeth II,
our visit a bit less historic.

No wreath we brought,
still flowers greeted us
as we remembered
past people and events,
as we reflected on
courage and freedom,
and the costs of violence,
and the possibilities of nonviolence.

28 April 2012
Garden of Remembrance, Dublin
Ireland

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Where are the Ribbons of Hope?

Simple ribbons.

Many colors.

Bright colors.

With words of

remembrance and

faith and

love and

hope.

Ribbons of Hope were made in New York and around the world as part of the observance of the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Ribbons were made at St. James Presbyterian Church on September 11, during a seminar with participants from the Presbytery of West Virginia, and at a chapel service at the Church Center for the United Nations.

Prepare New York reports that more than 20,000 people participated in Ribbons of Hope. The ribbons adorn 12 nine-foot panels. “These tapestries, where ribbons of different colors, textures, shapes and sizes can be found side-by-side, symbolize the strength and vibrancy of our diversity and serve as an important witness to peace and reconciliation. The plan is to continue to display them across the city throughout the full tenth anniversary year. They will travel each month from one prominent location to another. Ribbons will be added as they go, making this an expanding, interactive expression of community art.”

Moving, maintaining and organizing this project takes money; friends of Prepare New York can make a tax deductible gift of $25. Your gift will help keep this powerful symbol of hope and healing alive for a full year.  Your name will be added as a “friend” of Ribbons of Hope.

Did you add a ribbon to the Ribbons of Hope panels and want to know where your ribbon is now? Use Ribbons Map to track all the panels as they move from place to place. Find out where your ribbon has been and where it’s going next.

 See photos from the Ribbons of Hope weekend. Read Robert Chase’s recent blog: Reflections on Ribbons and 9/11.

Ribbons of Hope panels are scheduled to be at the chapel in the Church Center for the United Nations next week. Watch for pictures.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, New York