Tag Archives: Sons

Spring, 1864

Spring’s first blush
kisses me as I push my way
through the door,
onto the porch;
my old hips groan louder than the hinges.

One, two, three painful steps, I shuffle
to the post where I stop and lean
as I try to catch my breath.

Air fills my lungs anew,
as my gaze falls upon the field:
unplowed,
unworked,
untouched it stands.
Tears well in my eyes –
it will stay that way this year.

My sons,
my proud, precious sons
will not plow or
work or
touch the field
or any field
this year
or year.

They forever lie,
in peaceful repose I hope,
in some
unknown, unnamed field:
some
God-forsaken,
God-blessed,
God-damned,
Virginian field,
victims, as are we all,
of this unending war.

Never will my boys
love or
play or
work this field again.
In peaceful rest,
they forever lie –
so I hope,
so I pray.

From the South,
a crow flies into sight,
its raucous call
breaks my reverie.

I rub one gnarled hand
against another –
hands twisted by life will never again hold a plow –
and I wonder if
down in Virginia, where Spring has surely come,
some spent, used-up man, some grieving father,
whose sons marched away to bugle’s call under flapping banners,
now gazes on a field
unplowed,
unworked,
untouched,
and remembers, wonders, weeps.

with thanks to Don Shriver
DL 5759
5 October 2012

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Would you be willing to do that?

“I would like to have a prayer service for my son at my house'” she said. Would you be willing to do that?”

I pondered for a few moments, not sure what to say. I have prayed in people’s houses. I have celebrated Communion in people’s houses.

I have visited many people who were shut-in over the years, although probably not as frequently as I should have done. I have visited people where they live at times of death and situations of stress or moments of joy. I have visited to nurture and build relationships.

On all those visits, or at least all that I can remember, I have prayed. With the people I visited, I have prayed. For the people I visited, I have prayed. Sometimes the person I visited prayed for me. Other church members and friends went with me at times. Often I went alone.

“You see six months ago my son received a diagnosis of cancer,” she continued. “He has had treatment and recovered, and I want to give thanks to God. I want a prayer service. Would you be willing to do that?”

The use of the word “service” wondered me. It is one thing to go and pray with someone.  But services of worship, are public in my Reformed understanding. The Session approves celebrating Communion at times and places other than the usual worship time and place; representatives of the congregation usually accompany the celebrant. A private service?

After some quick thought and prayer – she sought an answer now – I decided this would really be the same praying with someone in the place where they live. I would view this as a time of prayer. If she preferred to call it a service, well I could live with that.

“I will,” I replied.

The planning began. We talked a time or two, and we exchanged email. The service morphed and developed. In the end, it became a service of thanksgiving. It would be a time to give thanks for both her sons and to give thanks for the house in which they lived – their home.

She emailed directions. And at the appropriate time late yesterday afternoon, I set out.

As the A-train rattled toward the destination, I wondered what the evening would bring. Would there just be the four of us? If I said a prayer or two would she consider that a service? If she did not, did it matter?

I came off and descended the steps to the sidewalk. There I discovered that my email server had gone down so the email with the directions could not be retrieved. Fortunately, I had the wisdom (or maybe just needed some busy work during the trip) to enter the address in my Google Maps application while on the train. I turned to that and began the short walk  to her house.

Upon arriving, and before entering, I noticed three things. A pile of shoes stood at the top of the stairs – far more shoes than three people would need. Through the window, I could see the shadows of many people. A buzz of conversation, punctuated occasionally by laughter, came through the door.

Her son answered my knock and escorted me in to the living room. People filled the room. Family members. People from church. Any thought of a private service disappeared. This would be a communal time.

As I sat down, two of the men from the church left. The introductions had not ended when they returned with hymnals.

Quickly I reorganized my prayers and shaped a service. I invited the family to pick some hymns. When they had done so, we started.

I gave a call to worship. We sang. We prayed. We gave thanks for life’s blessings and God’s goodness. We gave thanks for her sons. We gave thanks for her house – her home. We remembered and prayed for God’s healing, comfort, and strength for all in need. We passed the peace, reminding one another of God’s love.

The closing hymn for the service – and it truly was a service – was “Let Us Break Bread Together.” And after a benediction, we did.

Outside, behind the house, family, friends, sisters and brothers in Christ enjoyed a meal of Guyanese and Trinidadian foods, supplemented with fried chicken and red velvet cake. Joy moved from table to table. Grace abounded. Thanksgiving bubbled over.

“Would you be willing to do that?” And I am blessed because I said I would.

See you along the Trail.

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Young legs on the ground

I have known for some time that, in moments of need and crisis, Tricia and I can count on Sean and Eric to come through. They have done so. Again and again, they have done so.

Yet no matter how long I have known, I still experience a thrill of elation each time it happens. It did so again yesterday.

My mother is hospitalized following surgery on a broken hip. She faces another couple days in the hospital, then a couple weeks of rehabilitation. My stepfather and aunt provide her support network. They have told us again and again that no one needs to come.

I believe that they mean that. But as I thought about what they face – traveling to the hospital, keeping their places clean, buying groceries and other supplies, shoveling snow should that come, caring for my mother, and caring for themselves, it became clear to me that, no matter what they say, they could use some help.

And as I thought about who might provide that help, I thought of Eric. He graduated in December and currently is among the many seeking a job. He has some options, but nothing definite yet. For a while he had stayed in Cleveland; ten days or so ago he went back to Bowling Green where he has an apartment through the summer. He could go to Pennsylvania, I realized. He could provide “young legs on the ground.”

I talked over the idea with Tricia who agreed. I then tried to call my aunt. She did not answer and she has not set up her phone for voice mail. I then called Eric. He did not answer, but he does have his phone set to receive voice mail. I asked him to call me back.

A short time later, Eric called. I explained my idea.

He took all of about 2.41 seconds to think before he said, “I could do that.” We talked about what it would look like and when he could get to Pennsylvania. I said I needed to talk to my aunt and I would get back to him when I did.

After hanging up with Eric, I called her again. She answered. I said I thought Eric should visit for a while – an indefinite period at this point. She agreed.

Today, Eric drove from Bowling Green to Cleveland. Tomorrow, he plans to head to Pennsylvania. Young legs on the ground.

I have known for some time that, in moments of need and crisis, Tricia and I can count on Sean and Eric to come through. Yet no matter how long I have known, I still experience a thrill of elation each time they do. Eric did so yesterday. Sean will do so when his turn comes.

See you along the Trail.

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