Friday, March 12, 2010


You wake up one morning no longer young. In spring, beautiful girls now walk ahead of you, unattainable. Overhead, the night sky, equally beautiful, comes too close. The coffee is a habit now, not a stimulus. The earth is mud, with a promise of more rain. You rub your elbow and your knee. You have finally achieved adulthood -- you've learned to live with pain.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.

You remember Joe Kozan after his second heart attack talking about the pain. How he was standing in line for death -- "it was a long line, it stretched forever" -- before they revived him. It was a long line in an amusement park: he passed the cyclone, the big dipper, the ferris wheel, the house of mirrors. Barkers calling out to him, trying to sell him a ticket. "I thought I had bought it." This was in the late sixties, in Franklin Square, in the living room of a little Cape Cod with gray shingle siding, out on the Island. Joe was a machinist and a Christian and a Democrat. A couple of years later, dead. That world gone. This was at the dawn of the information age, you see, when so much was still unknown.

Praise Him, all creatures here below.

I don't know what to do with this scene. A man sitting there with his pain, his wife -- soon to be a widow -- at his side, listening to his every word, putting her hand on his arm, and asking, "Joe, can I get you more tea?" Now remembering, this was April in the year Kennedy and King were shot, the TV was on, there were riots in New York and Washington, people were scared. Joe couldn't get to church, his doctors had prescribed bed-rest, so we brought the communion to him. In his living room, on the couch, from The Book of Common Prayer, we spoke the words, "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty..." and Joe and his wife joined in, their voices soft yet clear. What was I doing there? I was too young to be a deacon, or even a chalice-bearer. Perhaps I was accompanying my father on his rounds. Visiting the sick.

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.

That world gone. You abandoned god, but you remember the prayers and the music. Now you sit in your kitchen thinking,
wouldn't it be nice to have a god? Some powerful, compassionate Being to come with me as I ride further on up the road, especially since there'll be a lot of shite to face, too much to face alone. But it won't happen -- there is no god. Instead, you'll have to rely on people to help you along. If you're lucky, maybe they too will remember the prayers and the music.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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