Sunday, August 30, 2015

Like sparks in fireworks

I stood near the road in the darkness, the full moon peaking over the trees behind me, and focused my eyes on the sky above the field across the way to watch a grand display of whizzing rockets turn curlicues and loop-de-loops and finish in bursting sprays of fiery sparks.  I watched the colors of red, green, and gold bathe the faces of the other spectators all looking up, hoping you were looking down.   Did you hear the report resonating through the oaks?  I tried to count to see if there would be 27 blasts, one for each year since the day you were born.  Or maybe 11, one for each year you have been gone.  There were far more than 11, 27, or 38 even.  Some were colors of happiness, like the kind of happiness in your eyes when something made you smile.  Some were crackling showers of glittery, golden sparks like the effervescence of your youth.  They were all for you, a gift from your parents whose grief will always be near the surface and easily touched on marked days like the anniversary of your accident, your death day, Christmas and all the other 362 days of the year.  But on your birthday they celebrate your being with friends and family just like the 16 birthdays you had while you were here.

I will always regret we were not as close as we could have been.  The rush of busy living kept our paths moving in opposite directions.  Still, I have memories.  I remember a little baby with head full of black hair sticking out in all directions.  I remember the same baby growing up with a head full of straight, blonde hair the color of sunshine.  I remember the day I saw you out shopping and you rushed to me like an old friend.  I was surprised to see you had chosen to darken your hair when most young girls go to great lengths to achieve your natural color.   You were in a happy place on that day just months, maybe less, from the day you would no longer be here.  I remember your 16th birthday, the one with all the white tents and red roses.  We posed together for a picture that night.

After that the memories are not as fondly welcomed.  I remember where I was sitting and the position of the telephone on my desk when I received the call of your accident.  My first instinct was to let it go as something minor, but there was a nagging in my hearth that urged me to the hospital and within 10 minutes I was on my way.    I remember the other call and location of that telephone when the voice on the other end said it was bad and you were fading fast.  The remnants of a distant hurricane still blew in the air, and I remember wet leaves stuck to the hood of the car and the sidewalks as I made my way once again to the hospital.  I remember seeing you there, sleeping.  I remember the utter grief in the room where we gathered as a family and were told of your destiny.  I remember the long line of fallen faces waiting outside the door, and hoping not to meet any of the hopeful eyes searching for answers, or miracles.

But one memory is mine and mine alone.  It is of the night a month or so later when you came to me in a dream.  The effervescence of your joy showered me like those crackling golden sparks of the fireworks on your birthday.  You were jubilant!  You were at peace and for whatever reason you chose to let me in on it.  I know you visited me that night.  I felt the warmth of the hug you gave me before you told me you were happy and had found friends and then ran off, smiling, to your everlasting reward.

As I stood near the road and felt the blast of the report reverberate in my chest I remembered the good things and hoped you, too, were watching the trails of the fiery rockets as they headed towards heaven, your everlasting reward.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Matthew 18:20

On the occasion of my graduation from eighth grade at my Catholic elementary school my classmates voted me most likely to become a nun.  I already had one nun in the family, but unlike my aunt I did not receive a divine calling to the sisterhood.  I had not found Jesus yet.  Of course I knew Jesus; He was ever present in my home and in my school, hanging on a crucifix in every classroom and living in the tabernacle behind the church altar.  I also loved Him and recognized Him as my God and savior.  I just had not found Him yet.

A few years later when I was in college I found Jesus while wading in the water in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  I stepped on something sharp and hard and reached down in search of the hidden treasure.  It was Jesus hanging on a corroded blue plastic crucifix buried in the sand.  I pulled Him out of the Caribbean and brought Him home with me.  I also found Jesus once in a drawing I made of Him on a small scrap of paper.  It was an amazing likeness to something Da Vinci might have painted.  I slid Him under my sister’s pillow as she lay in a coma a few months before she met Him in person.  

My cousin, the one I wasn’t afraid to ride with when I was five, once found Jesus in a parking lot.  This time He was disguised in gold filigree and fit to hang on a chain about the neck.

Jesus has shown Himself to me in many odd and wonderful ways such as outlines in the natural striations on granite floors, images in stained glass windows, and eclectic statuary.  Just yesterday I found Him in many different forms in an old jewelry box I rummaged through in search of that corroded blue plastic crucifix I brought home from Jamaica 29 years ago. 

A person of Catholic upbringing is expected to meet Jesus in the sacraments they receive as rites of faith.  Even though I made my first communion when I was eight my first real encounter with the Son of Man was 20 years later in a Eucharistic celebration in my sister’s hospital room after she awoke from her coma.  The hospital’s resident priest came to her room to give her communion and offered it to those of us with her as well.  I felt Jesus standing with us that evening, as two or more of us were gathered in His name, so there was He in our midst.  Jesus was physically present in that moment as sure as I live and breathe.

Since that night I have met Him many more times, but most recently, in a twist of ironic fate, I met Jesus at a convent of all places.  My classmates’ votes did not send me there, but instead I went to celebrate my aunt’s calling and 70th year anniversary as a Sister of Mercy.  The ceremonial mass was held in the chapel at the Mercy Center retreat house in St. Louis.  The round chapel there is ringed by incredible stained-glass windows portraying the corporal and spiritual works of mercy the sisters have vowed to uphold.  I found Him there in glass portraiture and I found Him carved in exquisite marble.  But I met Him in the voices of the nuns who had gathered for the celebration as they sang the Suspice during the few moments of silent prayer following communion.  The unrehearsed, spontaneous harmony of the group of women sitting throughout the chapel resonated with angelic content.  I sat with my eyes closed and allowed the music to settle in my soul and my spirit both soared and rested in peaceful synchronicity.  

It was then, during that ardent song, when two or more of us were gathered in His name, was He again there in our midst.