13 September 2006

The Good Night

Tired. A ferocious week and it’s only Wednesday. Not evil or mean, I should say. Just immense. Time planning and management has never been my forte. It began to take its toll with the familiar touch of insomnia. That’s my ‘wake up call’ in reverse, the signal to slow down. Only I can’t. Once the irons are in the fire you have to see them through. You would think I would learn by now. As they say about insanity…?

Thanks to the magazine that published my 9/11 thoughts, I got a bunch of blog visits on Monday and Tuesday. Thanks Chris Walton for that. And a fine note from someone using an email username, which means I have no idea who it is. But the letter was very kind, and in the curious intimate anonymity of the internet, I now know a great about this person but not a name or even a gender. O brave new world that has such creatures in it.

Death is about me this week as I attend a man and wife as he slips away, and prepare a memorial for a young man who perished a month ago. Nothing in clergy life is so affirming, oddly, than the office of the dead. We are really quite trivial to society, as the ancient reputation of priests as parasites suggests, until death comes. Then I feel useful, in a clear and firm way.

Thinking back on funerals, I remember them more than weddings. Weddings are often very similar, and frequently for people you do not know. The dead are more likely people with a connection to you. I have clear memories of my first memorial, a hot day in Chicago that demanded shirtsleeves. And one in Massachusetts that had me standing in a graveyard as the snow fell and watching the casket go into the frozen ground. There were two huge funerals I did in Texas long ago, one for an esteemed professor. So esteemed that the formidable John Silber, then president of Boston University attended. I did not know until after and was relieved not to have known. Another for a ballet dancer who perished of AIDS. He was deeply loved by student and fan. I saw them the day they died, when the shadow of death had crept into their faces.

It may seem odd, but I cherish the dead I have buried, even the ones I did not know. It taught me that even when we are gone, there are people whose lives we can affect. Mine being that affected life.

I did not know the young man I shall memorialize tomorrow, but his mother and father came to see me and I saw the awesome sorrow in them as they smiled through their tears. I do know the man who is slipping into death, sleeping more and more. What a gift I get each time; one that always humbles me and makes me tremble with unworthiness. I am blessed.

Now to bed.

No comments: