In my mind lately, I have been thinking a lot about this life and this world. I don’t have all the answers. Who does? I don’t know how we go each day and continue through sorrow, great times, and mediocre days. The latest book club read was a deep one. It made you analyze everything. I have already had my eyes open to so much of the grief caused by the human will and wheel. This world keeps turning and turning. It is older than time or the time that we are cognizant of at least. The book is set in the heart of the African continent: the Congo or Zaire. The thing is the oldest forest is where I took the journey with this book. Students, when I read a book I actually take a vacation. I begin research on the areas of the book: topographical and political. The more that I find out or see of this amazing planet we call home I know there is something so mystical about it. This area is considered the cradle of civilization. To have trees that are thousands of years old and to be able to walk under those are to me treasured. The richness of this area was so baffling. The ruthlessness of this area was breathtaking. In the 17 months of the stay there, 31 children died in the little village. Do the math. Back row you can do division and you can also round and figure out the percentage. I know that the front row wants more data like the total number of births, but the point is that the mortality rate in this area is astounding to someone like us living here in the United States. The amazing thing is that the people there, the indigenous people, work with life just as well as they do with death. This is how this book connected with my mind as I live this little bitty life in West Tennessee.
Do you ever think about the older you get the smaller you feel? I don’t know if it is our brains that pick up the speed and start collecting data and figure out that we are quite insignificant. There are so many things going on on this earth at this very second from forest fires, to hurricanes, to droughts, to famine, to deadly viruses, and the list could fill an entire blog. This is the point. No matter how big or small you feel in this life, this is it. This is our journey. This is my journey. What is this we call ourselves today? The information age? The disinformation age? Who do you trust? Who do you believe? What do you believe? How do you believe it? Who’s right? Who is wrong? All of this stuff gets in my head and I try to make sense of it. I am not always successful but I had a reckoning the other day at church of course that has urged me to write and teach.
Sunday before last was the day chosen to Christen or baptize our youngest granddaughter. I have been so blessed in this little life. Things are so crazy everywhere but in this moment I received clarity. I watched my beautiful daughter-in-law hold my beautiful granddaughter during the service. A sadness washed over me. I quickly realized this was a blessing; I was getting to watch my four grandchildren grow and become so beautiful and wonderful. I thought about my youngest daughter. As I prayed and swayed with the rhythm of the mass and heaven coming down to this little altar in Tennessee, I envisioned my youngest daughter holding an infant at the baptismal fount beside a handsome man. She was glowing. The homily or the message is what took my breath. The message this Sunday was about whether in life or death we are all connected. Even after my death I will be able to visit this altar each time the hallelujahs and the Holy Holy Holy are sung in unison. I realized this is where my spirit dwells with God. My days will be filled in heaven as they are on earth. I will be able to visit and be a part of that everlasting love until we are all back together. Death really does not have the sting we humans are so fearful of in our fragile, mortal vessels. The fabric of our lives, our very own DNA will continue the journey. Everyone wants specifics. In the Congo, the people understood so well the ebb and flow of life and death. Does this mean that they had a hard heart? No. It means the exact opposite of that. The children lost were wailed over and cried over as their bodies began to return to the very dark soil of the heart of Africa. So many of the women have up to nine children but only one survives and that is if they are lucky. Each one is cherished and celebrated whether they stay in the living or are in death. Their little time here is part of what God calls creation. Everything works together. Everything is of God to these indigenous people. They continually depend on daily sustenance from God. Does it magically poof out of the air? No. Is it a treacherous and hard life? Yes, most definitely. Front row students, what have I tried to get across to you? That is right. We have to embrace our journey no matter how small and try to do the good work with God for all. Can I change governments and all of the wheels of consumerism and neglect of this precious earth? No but I can do the best I can with what God has given me and where he has placed me in his picture of our world. Do what you can where you are. Do not forget the gift of our planet. We have the chance to use our knowledge for good. To live gentler lives on the land and to not rape and pillage other areas for the consumeristic will and wheel. To be a good steward of the land is what God wants for us. To live in communion with the land and to treat it with respect. I am going to die one day. Who knows what day? The next church service that I attended the priest announced that one of our faithful parishioners had entered into heaven that same very day. Was I sad? Yes very for us but not for him. He did his work well. I smiled. I knew he had no limits anymore of his earthly body. He had come down to the altar and celebrated with us. I felt so full of God and the Holy Spirit. Yes we say goodbye but then we are born into that everlasting life. At the funeral mass, there were so many reminders of his goodness. The biggest ones were his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I was able to sit right behind a beautiful 9-month-old child. She was so beautiful and I could see the light in her eyes. I could see her Papi’s spirit shining through her. She smiled so beautifully and communicated with me. I am so astounded at the children that are drawn to me. This body ravaged with ALS is a spectacle indeed. I just think the light of Christ beams out of me in some way or form so children want to touch me and to smile and giggle. I know the back row thinks that they are laughing and giggling because I look so goofy but I think there’s just something more. I don’t think it; I know it. For all of those who have faced death of a loved one or are facing death I am to tell you be not afraid. Don’t be scared to live for fear of dying. It is in your death that you are one of those praying for others. Your journey matters. Let me say that again for the back row: your earthly journey matters no matter how long or short, big or small. Live it fully with the grace of God.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Living Eternally Gal
Quotes of the Day:
Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.