Lord, give us grace duly to consider how few [our days] are, and how little a while we have to live in this world. ~ Matthew Henry, on Psalm 90:12
In the fires of August, I saw things I never thought I’d live to see, a silent, impotent witness to events that were not my own.
There are some days on the calendar that are raw, where the skin of what we think is never going to change is peeled back too quickly, and what we think we can control is snatched from our hands whether we are ready for it or not.
It’s for those days that we better have a theology that holds and will not split at the seams.
I wrote to you on Friday that the telling of this would be difficult. I am so glad that you came back anyway.
The fires of August burned around us, and some of us watched helplessly as others of us got mowed down. And summer’s grass turned brown and the bright herbs on my deck burned up in their little, clay pots, and relentlessly, day in and day out, we travelled the long roads to one another. . .
When the fires of August broke, and the hospital released our mother and my baby sister took on the title widowed sister, and my other sister, the Nurse, became the rock and hub for the spokes to turn, I, the wilting keeper of the words, came awake to myself in traffic paused outside a cemetery. I gazed past the iron fence at the bundled quiet that sometimes follows the pain, at the roofless city within in its lawn of grass. Without much thinking about it, I pulled aside and entered the arrow tipped gates.
I walked for an hour among stones, frail memorials that reached to wrench from the passerby a sigh.
How small a space it is to record a life. There were acres of stones, some in provincial formation and others seeking to stand apart in the shade of a few elms or the circle of paths among a few burnt crepe myrtle. And tunneling beneath my feet stretching far around me not unlike the daffodil bulbs under the soil in the garden at home. . . mouldering forms of those who little knew or even cared, brief candles now spent.
I stayed until the garden of slumbering souls so impressed upon my mind it’s still sad strains, and all my hurrying and wasting was chastened and subdued.
And I knew again, in ways I have come to know over and over, why God chose to do what He did by sending His son to make the dead end of graves a door, that always He goes before us, but especially here He went before.
And it was in that garden of silent, pitiful stones that the prayer rose in me, “Teach us to number our days. . .”
A few weeks later, I would be asked to lead a women’s bible study, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. “Moments,” she writes, “this is all we have. Microscopic, fleeting moments,” but “how do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?”
What followed led me back here to Thoughtful Spot. To my One Thing for 2017, And to you.
I’m so glad you are with me.
I am thankful to the poets who gave me the words to express the thoughts, among them Thomas Gray and his “Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard,” 1783 and William Wordsworth and his poem “A Few Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey,” 1798.