The Dash Between

Walk through a cemetery, slowly. Gaze at the various grave markers, take note of the person’s name, the date of birth the date of death, look around, see what offerings have been left by others. The gravesite tells much if we are really attentive, we get to know who this person is, those bits and pieces of offerings give us a glimpse into their life, when they once roamed this planet, when they were fully alive and present. Between the birth and death there is a space or a dash, that small part represents all that person was and did, how they lived, loved it represents their hopes and dreams, the pain and joy, all that life brings.

I have done plenty of funerals, have seen many gravestones and read about those who lie beneath the ground. Some heroes, winners of medals and adulation from a grateful nation, some mothers who sacrificed so much for children and grandchildren, some husbands who once stood as the providers for their families, all once living breathing human beings. The space, the dash is where their story lies, it is in that place where we find discover their true self, it is in that space where we discover ourselves.

Memoir is mining the dash, going beneath its surface and diving deep into those memories that have made us who we are, and will be the legacy we leave. I am coming now to the end of another period of life as retirement lies out there on the horizon. I have been a priest in the Episcopal Church for over 26 years, I have served my current parish for 17 of those years. I have made many mistakes, I have suffered depression and felt defeated, yet, I have also felt great joy and love. I have experienced the full spectrum of the human condition, witnessed birth and death, held the hand of one facing great struggles, watched as others have turned their backs and walked away. My heart, has been filled to the brim with joy and broken also by great heaviness, a sense of failing not just the people I serve but the God whom I have given my life over to.

Vocation is a calling. It is answering the call to follow and follow I have done. Not the most perfect of followers and definitely not one of those bright shining stars that populate the universe of clergy. I have been the person whom God created me to be, I have tried, failed and tried again and through the trials and tribulations I have grown to love these people whom I have lived with. Last Sunday was Easter and it will be my last Easter here in the place I am. As I looked out at the congregation, knowing many only come once or twice a year, I saw so many stories and each one has touched my heart. The teens who I held in my arms so many years ago, pouring water over their heads as I baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, bringing them into the community of faith. The families who I sat with as we watched a beloved member die, as we stood at the edge of the grave, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It was hard, it will be hard, to say good-bye, to bid these people farewell, even now as I write this I feel the clutch in the throat, tears on the edge of my eyes, remembrances pouring out.

My own dash, the space between birth and death, is where I am now being called into, to write, however imperfectly, about this life. If anything, I write this for my grandchildren and those who will one day walk into some graveyard, stare down at a stone with my name engraved on it with a birthdate and death date, and that all important dash.

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Coddiwomple

Coddiwomple

(v) to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

It just had to be,

this journey we’re on

I can’t say it was meant

to be this way

but faith is about

the roads we travel

even when it grows dark

and doubts creep in

as we wonder

where it will all lead

it’s never been clear

no roadmaps, no guides

only our feelings

that are more like mist

that is at once there

and then gone

leaving us feeling full

and yet empty

so now we say goodbye

each on their own journey

toward a new destiny

holding onto the memory

of what has been

dreaming of what will be

realizing that faith, hope and love

the greatest being love

a treasure held within

our own fragility

is what we share

as we travel forward

into the unknown.

The Good Poet

The poet,

a good poet,

sees the world,

I mean,

really sees the world.

They not only see a sunrise,

they see the colors that dance across the horizon.

The changing shapes of clouds

being blown about the blue sky.

When they write about love,

they touch upon deeply held feelings

giving voice to our deepest desires.

Passionate kisses are felt,

the warmth of another person held close,

losing oneself in the moment

wishing it to last forever.

In the way they use words

that worm their way into a person’s heart.

Poetry becomes the portal,

through which we step into

an unseen world,

uncovering mysteries lying

just outside of our limited sight.

Your Story

Your story has sunk into my skin

dived through epidural layers

soaking through the membranes

to become a part of the greater story

the one we have shared all these years

your story has rooted itself

with roots that entwine the deepest parts

of my very being

feeding off the well of love

your story does not exhaust or deplete

it gives as much as it takes

it feeds until it becomes one with mine

and we live together

our souls singing in sweet harmony

Writing from the Heart

The sky shimmers

masking the shadow

that lies on the heart.

The earth feels solid

as I walk along the path

yet, a chasm opens

seeking to draw me down

into the depths.

It seems so long ago

that I took that step

to discover myself

as I began to write

began to explore deeply

those feelings 

that lie just below the crust

breaking out in midnight tears

wraiths weaving their threads

entwining themselves 

in and through my life.

Each day I use words

discovering hidden myths

as I scrape the surface

ever searching for truth

buried under layers of life

where lies and deceit take root

choking out the dream.

I know I’m not as clever

in the words that I use,

and there are moments

when I can’t write what I see.

But age and nature conspire

and I have only a short time

to put out into poorly written verses

that which lies heavy on the heart.

To write is to be free

to envision paradise reborn

in the moments of my life.