For just this day I thank you, Lord—this day when in a new and lonely empty place appeared a friend with whom I could retrace through forty years an undeserved array of other moments shared, and so survey as back across a pathless hillside face a hidden net of tangled trails where grace had always, always canopied the way. The bits of furniture he left behind will be of course in constant, welcome use but they will also serve as types that bind with unseen ligaments of love my loose days here to many others far apart in space and time but very near in heart.
At first—a leering mob circling the house, jeering, dancing naked, taunting the guests with their sex— the daughters thought their father brave to step outside, lock the door behind him, stretch his arms out in protection.
But then, even he offered them up, a sacrifice to protect strangers. Their father. The only “righteous man” in a city destined for flames, “Do with them what you like. But don’t do anything to these men.”
Then their eyes were like Isaac’s below the knife, the ram not yet in the bush, the blade gleaming.
What dread dug in the daughters’ betrayed hearts before the rioters, struck blind, stumbled, fell down, unable to find the door, Lot tugged back safely to the house?
And later, when they left that life behind, eyes straight toward Zoar, did they hear their mother turning, her stories sliced off mid-sentence?
What kept their gaze fixed? Their father’s almost-sacrifice or the intervention?
Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
“. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9
Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still, We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.
Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was
A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn How to float, I could learn how to die.”
I board the airplane to see my parents. They live far away and long ago And some years into the future; you never met such wry time machines In your life. Sometimes they will be about to pass the marmalade when Suddenly it is late 1941 and they are in college and kissing on the train; But then as you slather your toast it is 1967 and a war wants to eat their Son or 2012 and they are at that son’s wake or 1929 and a father comes Home without his job, or it is a week ago, and do you think that Federer Is the finest tennis player ever, or Laver, or Don Budge? It happens that Fast. It’s unnerving and glorious and confusing and perfect and I would Sit with them every afternoon, if I could, and say tell me tell me tell me, Tell me every moment of your whole lives, don’t leave me here without Your grace and humor and the extraordinary gleaming jar of marmalade From which come all your stories. Next year in Ireland . . . says my mother, And my dad grins, and I want to kneel and beg the Lord for this moment Again and again always, the inarguable yes of their bodies, the resonance Of their endurance, the hunch and hollow of their shoulders, the reverent Geography of their faces, the lean song of my father’s hands on the table.
A Turkish couple living near the Syrian border invited 4,000 Syrian refugees living in or near their city to their wedding party. The idea came from the groom’s father, who hoped their example would inspire others. The couple pooled money they had received from family members to throw the party, and wedding guests contributed food as well. The bride admitted being shocked when she first heard about the plan, but agreed that seeing the happiness in the Syrian children’s eyes was priceless. Nearly 2 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey (Telegraph, August 4).