Tuesday, March 3, 2020

From 2007

(I should stop looking through these old files. But this was from when I was a full time priest with an urban and diverse congregation. I remember how it felt to visit hospitals and nursing homes and homes with care givers as I drove home at the end of the day.)

                     I DRIVE HOME

I drive home through pain, through suffering,
through death itself.

I drive home through cat-scans and blood tests
and X-rays and Pet-scans (whatever they are)
and through consultations of surgeons and oncologists
and even more exotic flora with medical degrees.

I drive home through hospitals and houses
and the wondrous work of hospice nurses
and the confusion of dozens more educated than me.

Dressed in green scrubs and Transfiguration white coats,
they discuss the life or death of people I love.

And they hate, hate more than anything, to lose the hand
to the greatest Poker Player ever, the one with all the chips.
And here's the joke, they always lose in the end--
the River Card turns, it's all bad and Death wins.

So, while they consult and add artificial poison
to the Poison of Death--shots and pills and IV's
of poison--I drive home and stop in vacant rooms
and wondrous houses full of memories
and dispense my meager, medieval medicine
of bread and wine and oil.

Sometimes I think...sometimes I think...
I should not drive home at all
since I stop in hospitals and houses to bring my pitiful offering
to those one step, on banana peel beneath their foot,
from meeting the Lover of Souls.

I do not hate Death. I hate dying, but not Death.
But it is often too much for me, stopping on the way home
to press the wafer into their quaking hands,
to lift the tiny, pewter cup of bad port wine to their trembling lips,
and smear their foreheads with fragrant oil
while mumbling much rehearsed words and wishing
them whole and well and eternal.

I believe in God only around the edges.
But when I drive home, visiting the dying.
I'm the best they'll get of all that.

And when they hold my hand with tears in their eyes
and thank me so profoundly, so solemnly, with such sweet terror
in their voices, then I know.

Driving home and stopping there is what I'm meant to do.
A little bread, a little wine and some sweet smelling oil
may be--if not enough--just what was missing.

I'm driving home, driving home, stopping to touch the hand of Death.
Perhaps that is all I can do.
I tell myself that, driving home, blinded by pain and tears,
I have been with the Holy Ones.


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.