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stone etching

stone etching

It seems impossible, but we must take these steps.   Slow steps.   Halting steps.   Uncertain and anguished steps.  Lonely steps.  Fearful steps.

Today is one.  

When Lewis died my family and I had lots of very fast and unimaginable decisions to make.  And we made them the best we could. 

I go back over those first hours, the moment the deputy came to the door, the whirlwind and aching heartbreak of the emergency room, the urgent need to find answers to how and when the tragedy occured, and, finally, the desperation and despair and slow relinquishment of our disbelief.  The reality.

How others sometimes do this alone, I do not know, because it would seem to me that without my family and friends I would have never been able to survive these days and nights.  Even with their love and presence, there were certainly many nights and days it did not seem to me that I could or would survive another second.

Decisions were made, for right or wrong, better or worse:  trying to discern what is fitting to do and trying to keep him in perspective with each choice.

I have painstakingly prepared for today and its finality.

I searched around the region for a fitting monument, one that would express his love of nature, his disdain for pompous display, his strength, and (most especially) the enduring reality of our mutual love of one another. 

I realized that it would one day be my memorial as well and that some day hence our children would again wrestle with these realities, and I wanted to make it easier for them when that difficult day inevitably appears on their horizon again.

I hope I have succeeded in my quest.

The stone is large and unspectacular, but beautiful in form and function.  The stonecutters have done their work and polished and then etched our names onto its western face.  The setting is quiet and among some tall trees on a gentle downward slope toward the top of the hill at our local cemetary.  I go by Mt. Rest every day as I drive the short distance between our home and office in town.

It is an old graveyard and some few of our friends are also memorialized there.

A friend who is a bagpiper has been rehearsing to play an old favorite gospel hymn, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, one that I remember hearing Lewis sing when we were younger and sharing our favorites.

A lot of  well-known musicians have performed it:

Red Foley, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Louie Armstrong, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Johnnie Cash, Merle Haggard, The Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Randy Travis, and many more.  Quite recently the Boston Community Choir sang it at Ted Kennedy’s memorial service and then a jazz ensemble played it plaintively at the funeral service for Walter Cronkite.  That is where I heard it and decided to include it in Lewis’ graveside service.

A few friends and our family will be gathered there.  A few of his clients who did not know about or were unable to make his memorial service have also been invited as guests should they decided to join us.  Our “family” minister Sandy will say the biddings, prayers and final words.   Another good friend, an Episcopalian and chaplain, will also be there to help us with our Anglican proprieties should we need it.  

And then we will bury his remains under the trees, the sky, on this tiny outcropping in the midst of a marvelous and mysterious universe where we have had an opportunity to join and share our lives together.

And afterwards we will break bread together in the home Lewis and I shared.

I thank God for him.  I have been blessed.  We were blessed together.

And I loved him so.

May his remains rest in peace and may his joy be fulfilled in the spiritual realm that lies beyond our earthly comprehension.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory