Barbara Crafton is a writer, speaker, and recently retired Episcopal priest who seems to me to “have it all together” might be the descriptive idiom. For years she’s published The Geranium Farm, which describes itself as “The Almost Daily eMo.” I’ve not always read it, but it’s always worth the read, though after retiring she reduced its frequency, re-ran touching decade old issues from her files, and devotes some issues to imaginatively critiquing classical art. An extract from her upcoming book, this morning’s edition contemplating Moses at the Burning Bush touches me deeply.
Barbara nails it. Yes, for us who ourselves are at the far end of life, but especially for us who always try but feel we never quite succeed in our ministries with those who are closer to the end than we think we are, and those who face the rest of their lives agonizing over the loss of a loved one. Crafton’s questions are the ones that ultimately matter. What about death? What did life mean? Will I ever see her again? Will I get a second chance? Will this pain go on forever?
The end of life seems so far away in its youth, until death hits us. Two mornings a week when I park on Linda Avenue behind Cove School and get out of my car to walk, I see the place on the playground where in January 1947 I choked back a sob and told my teacher, “My grandmother died.” Pain and sadness subside, and in each loss we learn that we can go on after all, that we can make it, though the scar’s always there. Or more scab than scar, because unlike the appendectomy scar on my abdomen and the stripe down the center of my chest, rubbed, a psychic wound opens and hurts and bleeds all over again regardless how long. Many good things happened in the house where I grew up, but what happened to me the morning a year or so ago when the current owner graciously showed us through, was the thought as I stood at the kitchen sink that I was standing in this very spot after school that day when asked, “Did you know that your grandmother died?” I knew instantly which grandmother, and it was my life’s first moment of a broken heart. It's not just a scar. And in the hall where we had our telephone, this is where I stood that day agonizing and didn’t make that call. Barbara Crafton uses the term “existential cry” and one doesn’t have to reach eighty to know it or, in ministry, to share with others who are knowing it. It’s not only about death and dying, it’s leaving a daughter at college (I'm glad I no longer have that car), or a little grandson moving far away (I'm glad I don't still have that porch where I sat and wept). As Good Friday comes round again, it’s imagining standing there looking on and pressing close enough that the blood drips on me.
Barbara asks if the Logos can incarnate for us, and reflects that this is more than a game, that our losses resound throughout our lives, and that they are the reason that our exploration for God matters. She nails it. Faith, our hope, is that it’s not all internal to us, that there really is something there watching and waiting and loving.
Time to walk.