Rain Moving Through

Tuesday before sunrise the intense heat and humidity of the past few days was broken by the cooling air that preceded a storm.

Gathering myself into the morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I opened all the windows. When I lifted the sash in the oratory, the breeze drew the sheers delicately against the screens and then, just as softly, floated them back and up into the room.

I breathed deeply the fresh unconditioned air.

The rain started with a drizzle. The thunder rumbled long and distant, then near, then rolled past and away.

I didn’t know what to expect of the storm. The wind was picking up, making the tree limbs sway, and the thunder had become more frequent. I looked at the southwest sky, saw it was evenly gray and lacked the blackish-green mottling of danger. The birds continued their morning songs—a good indication of a regular rain—and so I was unconcerned as I sat down and picked up the breviary.

With windows opened wide the breeze moved easily through the upstairs flat. I listened to the rain drops plink on the aluminum window sills; it steadily grew into a persistent thrumming.

It was a needed darkness, a good storm, a refreshing rain. Sipping my coffee I prayed:

Dear Lord,

I thank you for the storms that move through life. Though there is darkness, there is assurance of its passing. You send the rain to cleanse, the thunder to make us attentive, and the wind to remind us that all things move according to your plan.

Although I do not like the darkness, I know your storms draw me down and away from the often consuming blaze of this world. And for every storm that moves across my heart, I will embrace it as a time to patiently wait for your return.

I pray to be strong enough to hold fast when storms become intense. And if I grow weary, to know I am not alone and to call out to angels, saints, and friends to shore me up.

I praise you Lord for dark nights and stormy days that deepen my desire for you.

Amen

 

 

Laughter with Tears

Image courtesy Ann Margaret (Goetz) Lewis.

Ann Margaret Lewis arrived Friday night later than expected. I stood at the end of my drive, cell phone in hand, talking her in down the dark two-lane road. As she came around the second bend she flashed her high-beams across the distance and I confirmed her approach with a near squeal of delight. Her long drive and my eager anticipation ended as we embraced each other in the driveway. It was very good to feel her hugs and, as usual, I welled up with joyful tears.

My friend drove more than four hours to stay with me over Father’s Day weekend. Her husband and son would celebrate Sunday night upon her return. The purpose for her visit was to attend to her parents’ gravesite, another two hours northeast.

A late night of wine, cheese, and shrimp made for a slow morning on Saturday. Shortly before noon we headed for the cemetery. For over an hour we travelled along the Interstates and talked of books, writing, and manuscripts. As a gardener who writes I am amazed at how much there is to learn about the crafting of words. Questioning Ann, I listened carefully to each lesson she shared.

Exiting the highway, Ann maneuvered through the congested traffic of two and four lane roads. I was unsettled by all the cars and trucks but she was unruffled. This was where she grew up, in Waterford, not far from Pontiac, northeast of Detroit. My anxiety was apparent, but Ann has grown accustomed to my quirks, and drove on with assurance of knowing the way. I was greatly relieved when we arrived at the cemetery—the open spaces soothed my traffic rattled nerves.

Cemeteries induce a sense of well being for me. As a child, accompanying my grandmother to the family’s plot was comforting. She would cut back sod from markers, pull weeds, and remove metal cones of dead flowers. My job was wiping off the grass clippings and dirt from the marble headstones. Grandmother would share memories as we worked. After we planted the marigolds and salvia she would draw quiet to pray while I wandered off among the headstones of unknown ancestors of other families. I would squat before grave markers and mimic my grandmother by pulling weeds, or wipe off leaves and clippings from headstones as I had done for our family. With my finger I traced the letters carved in the stone and tried to sound out the names. Eventually grandmother would call for me and I would say good-bye to all the silent souls and run back to her, to the land of the living.

Ann stopped at the cemetery office for the rules on planting around the plots. We drove to her parents’ graves and pulled hand tools and plants from the trunk. Soon we were both on our knees cutting back sod, pulling up weeds, and wiping down the pink marble headstone. I placed the plugs of marigolds and blue salvia within the small garden, and Ann planted them in place. After sprinkling a few forget-me-not seeds, Ann watered it all in. The gravesite was freshened and showed that the deceased were still well loved.

We stepped back for a silent prayer. Ann began to grieve, but I began to feel such joy that I couldn’t contain myself. I put my arm around my crying friend, and instead of words of sympathy I filled the air with words of blessedness and gift. I’ve never known the kind of love that would produce that type of grief, but I have known the type of love that would produce that kind of joy.

Through the depth of her grief came the reality of her love. The fullness of what her parents had given her was evident in the woman she had become. My joy came from recognizing the connection of that eternal gift and her ability to carry it into future generations. There I stood beside and before the ultimate gift from God—the capacity of love.

As we laughed and cried arm in arm I told her parents they had done a real fine job.