27 June 2008

Friday Five: Summer Reading

Songbird sez:

Back in the day, before I went to seminary, I worked in the Children's Room at the Public Library, and every year we geared up for Summer Reading. Children would come in and record the books read over the summer, and the season included numerous special and celebratory events. As a lifelong book lover and enthusiastic summer reader, I find I still accumulate a pile of books for the summer.

This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.

My responses below:

1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?

Surprisingly... under normal circumstances, no. Mind you, I'm unemployed so far this year--but I have had no time for reading. Too much else is going on... but realistically speaking, I haven't thought of summer as "reading time" since I graduated from High School. Winter is when I usually catch up, unless one of my favourite authors puts out a book--or a new volume comes out of a manga I'm reading. :)

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?

Yes. Sunburn is not the friend of people with ancestors from Northern Europe. Oww...

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?

Probably something by Tolkien... though I had a habit, even back then, of reading and re-reading favourite books--among them Rumer Godden's China Court. What a luminous piece of work....

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?

What is this "relaxing" of which you speak?? :)

If it's light reading, it's Manga. Right now I'm breathlessly awaiting Volume 5 of
Le Chevalier D'Eon.

5) What is the next book on your reading list?

Besides the above? Hmmm... probably something in German or Icelandic, as I am trying to learn those languages.

23 June 2008

Friday Five: Word Association

Playing Late, because Other Stuff (tm) happened this weekend...

This post is loosely based on previous "wordy" Friday Fives from Reverend Mother and Songbird. I liked the results, and so we are doing another word association. Theirs were based on words from a lectionary text. Mine comes from the Lovin' Spoonful song, "Summer in the City."

Think summer......are you there? Below you will find five words or phrases. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem, a memory, a recipe, or a story. You get the idea:

1. rooftop
2. gritty
3. hot town (yeah, I know, it's two words)
4. night
5. dance

Welll.... I'm not quite "at" summer yet, though Lord knows Northern Virginia has been of late. Back toward the tail end of May we began getting summer weather long before normal, and it got... Virginia-ish. Hot humid afternoons; thunderstorms darn' near every day... that heavy, high-temp, icky sort of weather that just wears you right down to a frazzle. All the severe weather warnings had an extra codicil: "because residents of the region have not yet had time to become accustomed to this sort of weather, temperature-related illness is expected..." or words to that effect.

Umm... yeah... *wry smile*

So here's my words:

1) Rooftop: First thing I thought of was a sight that made me smile recently: I was driving home and passed through the nearest large town, quite an old area, where the houses are now a little closer to the road than they were before the highway department stepped in, if you catch my drift. I saw a young woman sitting outside a dormer window on the roof of her home; she had on her bathing suit and sunglasses, and had a laptop in, well, her lap. :) I smiled at the novel concept of catching rays AND catching peace and quiet... then had a flashback to when I was much younger. I was at a church picnic, and took my plate of BBQ out onto the deck to soak up some sun while I ate. Stretched out on a chaise... put the plate in my lap... and ended up with a sunburn over most of my thighs... except for the half-circle on each thigh, from where the plate had been and protected my VERY pale Irish/German skin from the sun. :)

2) Gritty: The way my mucking boots feel when I balance on one foot, putting the other on the ground, when donning said boots... and inevitably sand gets on my sock, then into the boots. Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch... Once a horse steps on you, though, you tend to forget the grit.

3. hot town: Umm... pretty much everywhere lately. And people wonder why Summer is fourth on my list of favourite seasons... ;)

4) Night: Night, in Virginia during the summer, tends at its best to be when the temperature drops, the dew point rises, and I can shut off the AC--until July, that is, at which point it becomes the time when I can turn DOWN the AC. But on average... night is when I can think, dream, and weep without anyone seeing me. It is that space where I meet my Lord face to face without pretense and (for the most part) interruption. I like Night, most of the time...

5) Dance: I don't dance well, and when I do I tend to want to lead--oh, the unlooked-for ramifications of growing up as a Civil War Re-enactor, where I dressed as a boy. :) I was taught to dance from the "male position" and don't seem able to make the shift--but I can still waltz a girl in a hoopskirt with precision and éclat! I can even reverse her so the hoop does that scandalous, daring flip thing occasionally mentioned in well-researched historical romance novels... it's the sort of thing Rhett Butler would have done. *grin* I do like dancing, and wish most of all that I could swing dance--and that I had someone to share that with.

So that's Sharon's brain today, I'm sorry I've been so out of it lately--I'll post my sermon soon.

17 June 2008

A Soul Goes Home

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life,
even though he die.
And everyone who has life,
and has committed himself to me in faith,
shall not die for ever.

Saturday afternoon, a little before 2 PM, my friend Rick S. stepped out of this life and into the next after a long battle with cancer. When we saw him last at church on the last Sunday in May, he was so tired, so weak… and then the e-mail notes from the Rector began.

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

Rick has been my friend for around eight years. He is a man of wisdom, charm, and a delightfully wry sense of humour. He is a superlative musician with a real sense of how to make a choir a family as much as a functional worship unit. He is from the deep South and it shows… his manners, his wry delivery, his innate kindness. He is a Christian, a deep-faith believer, and he knows by whom he is saved. Now, he has met that saviour in person and been welcomed home.

For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies.
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord’s possession.

When he told us about his cancer, he was very matter-of-fact. There was no real announcement to the group of us at large; when he ended rehearsal as he always did—with prayer, giving us a moment or two to mention things we felt needed attention—he simply said “I’m starting chemo this week and would appreciate some prayer.” We sat there nodding, yes, yes, that’s what we do when someone undergoes—wait, what, CHEMO?? Frissons of terror, determination, fear… but always a sense that it would get better, that if anyone could beat cancer, it would be Rick. He was a fighter, determined, strong. Right up to the end he was planning a trip to Hawaii.

Happy from now on
are those who die in the Lord!
So it is, says the Spirit,
for they rest from their labors.

For a while it seemed to go away… but when it came back, it came back with a vengeance. Sometimes when you see someone who’s been blindsided by the midnight freight like that, you just know.

I knew. I knew that would be the last time I saw him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

If I have any regrets, it is that I didn’t spend more time with him as the days wore down. We weren’t in the same social circle; we only saw each other at church, where he was the organist and I the chorister. But at church… Oh, at church we had our own partnership. I occasionally was privileged to sing solos under his direction. He could play circles around many organists I have known, and if I flubbed a phrase he just played around it. If he wanted to slip in a change, he would look at me and raise his eyebrow and I knew to tell my fellow sopranos, “let’s do the descant!” If he felt he wanted a solo suddenly, he would look at me and just twinkle… and I would go to his side, get the hymnal number, and off we’d go… it was like we shared a brain sometimes.

I will miss that.

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and giving life to those in the tomb.

Rick knew how to motivate people. He was kind, and his sense of humour was incisively wry; he didn’t exactly poke fun, he just kind of… prodded. Gently. He could tell a section they had screwed up very badly without making them FEEL badly. He could make them laugh, then play the part correctly, and cause more laughter with the “ahem, see??” expression he would give them. He was our dad and our brother and our uncle all rolled into one drill sergeant, and we adored him. He knew how to get the best out of all of us, particularly my autistic, musically-gifted son. I will always remember watching them work together…

The Sun of Righteousness is gloriously risen, giving light to
those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.
The Lord will guide our feet into the way of peace, having
taken away the sin of the world.

The e-mails began early last week: Rick had received communion but hadn’t been able to speak; he had been visited by Hospice to receive a different blessing, that which would deaden the pain and allow him to remain at home until he passed. His partner Shaun was with him, and Shaun’s parents; they did what they could to keep Rick comfortable, those many things big and little that make it possible for us to stay occupied while walking the holy road of departure with someone we love—stay occupied and hold the tears at bay for just a little longer. It wasn’t a matter of whether Rick would leave us, but when.

Christ will open the kingdom of heaven to all who believe in
his Name, saying, Come, O blessed of my Father; inherit the
kingdom prepared for you.

It happened on Saturday: a bright sunny day, full of late spring, turning toward the long heat of summer. Choir was over for the season; we were into Summer Choir, where we would meet on Sunday to “pull something together.” Only when we met on Sunday he was already gone, flown free of his body and dancing with the Lord until we are all reunited in the afterlife. It was a hard morning full of tears and memory, but it was a good morning, too. We pulled it together somehow, because even at the grave we make our song. There is life beyond life, more happens after the transition known as death. We will sorrow—but not as those who have no hope. He is not so much gone as simply not here….

Into paradise may the angels lead you. At your coming may
the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city

Welcome home, dear, dear Rick. Keep a light on for the rest of us; we’ll see you in time. Until then we'll miss you so very much....

12 June 2008

I Have Decided...

... that 2008 is way too full of challenges. And most of them have been... horrid.

I am fighting an uphill battle to keep before my eyes the long list of blessings I have been given: a loving son; a return to relative health; a roof over my head despite being still unemployed... that sort of thing. There are also the lists of hopes: good interview recently, stuff of that sort. But I've discovered, much to my chagrin, that I am only human... and that sorrow is beginning to weigh me down.

I feel unloved, unwanted... cast aside by a thirty-year marriage partner, not really much needed in the life of a 26-year-old son... and now a beloved friend seems to not need me any more, either. On top of everything else--someone very dear to me is in the process of checking out of this life.

In the face of a life ending, a holy and fraught time... all my little sorrows seem to be so petty. Needless to say, between the self-recrimination, the depression, the grief and the loneliness--I am decidedly NOT in my happy space.

So I am trying to come out of my Wallow just there on the left as you enter the Slough of Despond, long enough to ask if anyone reading this could please take a moment and do whatever your religion recommends at a time like this: say a prayer, light a candle, ask for good spirits to guide him home... as my dear friend R. prepares for the step out of one life into the next one. Musician, mentor, friend... not nearly old enough to go, and too much of a bright, beautiful light for us to be able to afford his loss, however temporary...

For R., for his partner S., and for all those who love them both... may the parting be swift and painless, the path to peace and Heaven short, and the Way lined with waiting loved ones to welcome him home.

I'll try to be better later. Right now I just need to curl up in a ball somewhere and howl for a while... fortunately I am still coherent enough to remember that the Lord "gets" that, and will never leave me.