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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Advent Calls

In the depths of the heart

a voice whispers

awaken, O Man, awaken

the first light is lit

the world awaits

the maidens have trimmed their wicks

and still you slumber

awaken to the worlds needs

awaken to the song of humanity

the cries of the innocent

that haunt our souls

the angel speaks softly

in a voice of thunder

Wake, O Man, Wake.

Selling Our Souls

Are we really that far gone?

In this time and place

the darkness of a human

overshadows the light

and covers us in shame.

Many despair this darkness

as they try to make sense

of the trite words being tossed

at the expense of another soul.

You shall love God and neighbor

unless that neighbor is different

and then you look to denigrate

while the crowds cheer raising their thumbs

feeling vindicated without knowing

they have sold their own souls

for the price of thirty pieces.

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.

Reflection in Torchlight

The sunlit morn
dawns bright
over the haze
of the night before
torches held
as voices chanted
age old words
the long lost prophets
of war and woe
fingers pointing
to the sun
upraised hands
to strike us down
voices of peace
that break the bread
offering to all
a Sacrament given
from the wooden beam
of God’s great love
a grace that overflows.

One Day

One day,

I will not be here

but not today.

One day,

I will not feel the rain

or know the wind

but not today.

One day

I will not feel

love or pain

but not today.

One day

I will not hold my lover

in the darkness

but not today.

Today, 

I will live,

Today,

I will love,

Today,

I will feel,

Today,

I set my heart

to look forward

Today,

I hold my lovers hand

as we kiss,

Today,

I will live fully,

in the beauty

of God’s world.

The Harrowing

Oh, to write an ode or poem

to set down in words

the deep love within

showing the scars

on the landscape of the heart

left by travelers along the way.

Oh, to write of my life

in all of its intricacies,

the threads I have weaved

in the grand fabric of my world,

some tattered and worn

others new and complete,

each a different color

each a different texture

the complexities of the human soul,

upon which he bore the wooden beam

whose love carried the weight of grief

high above the city gate,

as the veil is torn

to reveal the grace

of loves true light

upon the darkened landscapes

that dwell in the depths

as he harrows the hardened heart

bringing peace to the wearied 

and life to the dead.