I took off my glasses and held them toward the lamp. Last night’s tears were the culprit—both lenses stained by yesterday’s news. I don’t want to clean them. I don’t want to loosen my grip on anything related to her. The doctor was reluctant to answer the time question. My dad reported something like, “It’s a downward spiral from here, and it will be fast.”
Not knowing what else to do, I found a clear spot on the lenses and read Wendell Berry’s poem—the one marked for today—the one called The Farmer Among the Tombs:
I am oppressed by all the room taken up by the dead,
their headstones standing shoulder to shoulder,
the bones imprisoned under them.
Plow up the graveyards! Haul off the monuments!
Pry open the vaults and the coffins
so the dead may nourish their graves
and go free, their acres traversed all summer
by crop rows and cattle and foraging bees.
It’s a difficult thing, walking in the shadows of a cemetery. But my mom has moved with such grace and hope. Hope that some combination of chemotherapy will add years to an inoperable journey. A hope for more good days—for precious time together. More good coffee in the morning and fried chicken on Sunday. More walks to the pier at daybreak, family card games late into the night, and more occasions when we’re all in the room, not far from a good kitchen.
We conspicuously fight back the tears or let them flow, and she comforts us. “Don’t worry about me. I am fine. I will be okay. Death comes.” And it’s true. The priest will say it for all of us: “This body we commit to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” She knows that death cannot hold us—cannot keep us from life. Our restless souls become convinced that her soul is at peace.
A friend just called. He knows this road and this faith. “The tears are a gift from God,” Scott said, and he spoke of that knowing look when you both realize you can still see each other. So we are flying in from all corners of the world, to tighten our grip on precious time together, to love each other while the eyes can still see, and to linger in the shadows of a worn out kitchen.
I feel grateful for all of you. I am glad that we will approach the table together on Sunday—glad for another chance to proclaim with you the mystery of our faith, and remember again that God’s kingdom and Christ’s final victory come as a feast.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. –Luke 24:36-43