At the salad bar of that place that sells healthy food, it hits me today, after I get off the bus. There has been a death. And as I weep, the tears blend with the “super food” mix and the chickpeas and that balsamic vinaigrette, all of it into a take-out box. I tell the clerk why, and it’s a she and I am glad for that because beings from Venus say “awwww” instead of starting their sympathy with “dude”. And then more tears blend with a swipe of a plastic purchase.
Then I walk by Persephone. She is there at the fountain, baring her bronze to all who pass, and saying farewell to Hades, and returning to life. I try to carry that with me as I keep walking, moving on to the coffee shop, trying to shake it off.
I must write: it is all, really, that I can do about it. I want to do so much more, anything, but I can only pray and think and write.
It is my kind of grief; I can identify it and I do not deny that I have it, and I cannot erase the reality of death that settles in, and that I am helpless here. And I know, and I believe, and I stake each moment of my life upon this truth: it is only a passing. She is glorified and in the presence of the blinding light beyond that pathway up there. And we, you and I, are on the pathway. Oh, God it is true. Yet, I feel grief.
And I hope that I can sometimes pray like that, after three days. And I hope that I can sometimes carry myself with grace like that, after three days. I am stunned by it, by having witnessed it.
But right now, I am still tending the tomb. Trying to grace that grave with only emptiness in it. I am an authentic believer, but I need someone around as I walk through this. So, here I am at this coffee shop.
Hey Timothy, do you want your usual day-off drink? Thank you, really, I tell A the Affable, but I need something different. Okay, she says, I know just the thing. And she pours some slightly sweetened cream into a cup. Then gets a spoon, turns it over, and slowly drizzles unctuous espresso shots over the back of that spoon. One, two, three shots slip singly over the spoon, into that cream. It’s done, the death; and the life in that light has begun. I know this. And, oh the drink is done too, and A has been promoted to supervisor and takes some pride in it, as she says: take the cup, drink it fast. I do.
“Yes ma’am, I do”. Those were the words I said to her, a time ago, after I helped her pass from one place to another. And now she has passed from that place into the Light and is dancing a jig! Yes, we know this is so true.
So, I do take the cup, and I drink it fast. I can feel the overlay of warmth, and the coolness of the cream as it goes down so smooth. I sigh with it and ask A what the drink is called. It’s called an Undertow, she says, and that is perfect. The undertow lifts me higher, and I tell her that.
And there is J, the Learner of Latin, sweeping the floor. He specializes in making summer drinks after I give him a word like Joy or Effervescence or Pax, the peace of progress at day’s end. But his real skill is language. And I ask him if he can help me, knowing that he can and will and wants to. I tell him what I want to communicate and why, and he smiles and says that he likes that and will have something in a few minutes.
And I need to pray. So, with the utmost cultivated care, I press the keypad for the door code, still Mr. Lewis in 5th grade, 1969. My cadence is off and it takes three attempts before I get it right, and then I enter that specialized chamber and offer a sobbing, wet prayer. I just cannot stop the flow of it for awhile.
I come out composed, and I have some script on a square of paper handed to me. I tell J, weeping again, that this is utter Latin perfection. And he tells me that it is deep and earnest and has a lofty and an earthly tone to it, that it can be used for plants, growing things. And I am thinking as he speaks through a smile that yes, plants live and die and live again to bring life and multiply the life in the living, even by their deaths.
I ask A and then J, can I tell this, can I tell about how you have helped me? Yes! Oh, yeah, we love it, they both say, and I love that they love it. My only desire and motive in writing is to show honor, please know that, I tell them.
So I sit and begin to write. That up there, I wrote it then, but it is almost movie time. It is a story about a war among the stars and it is time to go. So I do go because it is something that I must do, and it will be okay, but I do not feel like it at all. That it will be okay.
The movie begins, as all of this began, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . Those words travel like they do, continuing into the distance, and they help bring us all–as a kind of audience–into the present, as an update to the story, so that we are made current and can see the rest of the story unfold. There is a grammatical error in the text as it travels away from me, because of course, a subject and its verb must agree in number, and up there on the screen they do not. That error is too small to be noticed. But I do, I have to notice.
It begins, and I try, I really try to watch it, and then I fall asleep for just a few seconds during a battle scene, because I know that the battle is being fought, but also that it is part of a war that has been won from the beginning, from the first Word. I make myself wake up and watch and wait.
And then, at a quarter to five, I feel it wash over me: that the living must not rest in grief, must not wallow in it. That it will be okay. There is a kingdom to help build, and even this, sitting in a theater, is part of that. And I smile, that sweet cream of cleansing makes me smile, and it is all true, this story. Such gorgeous themes and lines here and there are being presented in cinematic, epic fashion, and yes it is true. The Force is real. And later, far into the story I almost stand in the darkened theater, raising my hands in praise. I really do almost, as a breathtaking image is shown on the screen, and John Williams and J.J. Abrams have chosen no sound as the soundtrack. It is their genius shining in the quiet, and I want to shout about it, and thank them and God for it. But I do not, and no one else in the audience dares to desecrate the sound of that silence either . . . those seconds becoming a moment of majesty.
Three days in a grave, now empty and silent. Shouting to us our destiny.
There is nothing to fear, nothing to grieve. Only the Love of the One who is the true Force without force. It is his gracious gift to us, eternally, and may I share it.
Altissima cum Cultura