Sunday Morning ~ Rising
Kanthu aonenji adagwira kanthu mu mdima. ~ Mister “How can we see something” (blind) caught something in the dark.
~ Chewa proverb
April 4, 2021
Easter this year is the anniversary of the day Hannah died seven years ago. It’s cold today. Seven years ago the day was cold, but in an April way. Today is cold in a December way, freezing and sharp with a biting wind. The light betrays us. On April 4th seven years ago I was painting my kitchen. It was half done. I never liked the color after that. I kept it, though, for five years. It was always a reminder. But it was never right. I never looked around and thought what a nice warm color. I always thought, I was painting that day. The day my friend’s child was gone on April 4th.
“Never a cross without a resurrection!” That’s what Irene used to say when I worked in her Stitch It Shop. Whenever I was upset about something she’d chirp, “Never a cross without a resurrection!” I believed her, after all, she was living proof. Her life before I worked there had been difficult for a good long while. She told us of the years she carried her cross having one day off from the shop and traveling between the mental hospital and the prison. Husband at the first stop, son at the second, she’d visit them both every Sunday after mass. She told us stories of these visits without bitterness or self pity. At least I didn’t notice any, though as a teenager I may have missed some nuance. I marveled how she could still have a sense of humor. She told us the Lord had rewarded her after her husband died with a loving second marriage and more material comforts than she’d ever dreamed of. She’d list the presents she got for her birthday or Christmas. When I marveled at the romanticism and generosity, she said, “God is rewarding me because I went twenty years without a gift.” For her, the connection was evident. Famine followed by feast for the faithful. She spoke of bible stories as if she had been there when they happened. There was always meaning for her in real time. She was generous. She often opened the cash register and handed out bills to the less fortunate who’d stop in to chat. I never heard them ask for money; it was small town compassion. A masterful storyteller, she recalled details about our town in the depression, war time, the aftermath. I learned a lot about our town’s history from her. She was born in that town and never left. She knew all the players and many of their secrets. Her stories were raw and honest. Coming from a family where troubles were not aired and personal failings never discussed, I found this incredibly refreshing. It was a relief. I felt permission to do the same. A son in prison and you talked about it? That would have been unthinkable in my house. My parents took mysterious family history to their graves and I still wonder if I’ve got a step sibling out there somewhere. No one is left to tell the story.
I’m teaching a course at College of the Atlantic this term and asked the students to write a story about an experience they had in the healthcare system. Keep it tight, I told them, don’t waste words but tell us what happened. I asked them to consider all the women’s stories that have never been told and how much history has been filtered through a male screen. Imagine, just imagine, if your brother, boyfriend, husband, priest or father were the ones to tell your story. Imagine how your story might be told. Then imagine what you’d like unborn women to know.
I went to church today for the second time in a year. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it until I walked in and felt a wave of safety, calm, and peace wash over me. I sat at the back, the church much fuller than I expected. I’d believed during this pandemic that going to church was something I could omit along with grocery shopping. Why add to the chances of contagion? But the Easter tug was strong and I’m glad I went. I thought about the twelve who got to tell the Easter story. I went over the list of historical tools: artifact, autobiography, documents, deeds, journals, diaries. I thought about the privilege of telling your own story. As I listened to the gospel I thought about the power of storytelling before written language existed and how things changed when it was possible to write an account. “Then when we retire we can write the gospels so they’ll all talk about us when we die.” I listen to Jesus Christ Superstar. Brilliant.
I have been following the coup in Myanmar and am horrified by the stories. It’s not only the shocking violence but the reported daily death toll. Curiously the media did not report similar death tolls of the Rohingya. How many innocent protestors have the military killed today? The voice is evocatively shocked. The numbers are rising daily, as if once the killing starts they might as well keep going; the world is getting used to it. When the number rose to a significantly shocking number, reported as such, accumulated deaths, numbers stacked upon corpses, reported with the emphasis on the number, total, since the coup began, I decided to look up the number of people killed in this country, my country, by white men during the same time frame. The numbers are similar. Wounded. Killed. The numbers pile higher and higher. But I don’t hear reporters on NPR stating how many people were killed by white men in America each day, total. Unless it’s a flashy mass murder, the two here, four there, an ex-wife over here, aren’t shockingly reported since their lives weren’t apparently lost to a noble cause with a storyteller nearby.
Who tells their story? Will it still be told in two thousand years? If Mary Magdalene knew how to write, if she’d been given the tools, how might the world be different? I wish I could have said, “Mary, you really should write this all down. Keep a journal. Your story is really important. Keep it tight. Don’t waste words. People will want to know this story. It may help someone.”
Love to all,