by JoBeth Allen
March 26, 2015
Luke 22:19: “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In her exquisite memoir about grief, The Cruel Country, my friend and colleague Judith Ortiz Cofer recounts sitting by her dying mother’s bedside in Puerto Rico and thinking, “I am … listening again to the old stories and committing them to memory in order to preserve them. I am still doing my work in terms of what I have come to believe defines immortality. Being remembered.” This is how I too think of life after physical death, and how I interpret Jesus’s words at the last supper: “My body will no longer be with you, but I will always be with you. I will be with you in the everyday practices we have shared: breaking bread together, walking the path, extending the hand of friendship as the face of God’s expansive and inclusive love.”
I believe that each of us will live on through the lives we touch during those everyday times. We probably won’t be aware of our moments of immortality. Perhaps these moments will occur when someone shares a loaf of homemade bread, or engages a visitor in meaningful conversation on the long van ride to Athens from the airport, or says, “Let me take the kids for a few hours,” or writes a Lenten devotional, or sings an anthem whose melody lingers in the heart. In those moments, we connect. We are changed. Long after our names and faces have faded from this earth, someone will offer kindness and acceptance and love because their lives or the lives of others once or twice or 100 times removed from us have been touched. Generations hence will do this in remembrance of you and me, not in our names, but in some everyday essence of our being.
In the following excerpts from poems written over the past few years to deal with the loss of three dear friends, I’ve tried to do what Cofer does in listening and telling stories. I’ve tried to capture a few of the ways Jon Kay, Clyde Anglin, and Jenny Penney Oliver touched my life – to capture their immortality.
Jon connects us through kindness
In gestures large and small:
Creating Jon-style Gourmet
For gatherings of friends,
Remodeling the bathroom
To surprise Amy when she was away.
His Grandest Idea was this:
“Live your life from the heart –
You never know whose
Spirit you may touch.
Leave nothing unsaid
When you sink into bed –
Then wake up each day and try.”
My friend Clyde had Carpenter’s Hands –
Designing, renovating, constructing;
Crafting the family mantle
From ancient heart of pine,
Building sheltering Habitats:
Framing, forming, and finishing
The Abraham House
With foundational joists of understanding,
Sturdy frames of friendship.
When you pen a handwritten note
To console a friend,
Celebrate a birthday or graduation,
Rejoice in a marriage or birth,
On a card you chose just for him,
That’s the Jenny in you.
When you read the Athens paper front to back,
Drive country roads with the top down,
Fill your house with zinnias and sunflowers,
Register voters in every Clarke County precinct;
When you celebrate every holiday season
– and celebrate for no reason –
When you make friends with every person you encounter,
And counter every challenge with a solution,
When we simply and profoundly and eternally
Love and cherish one another,
That, my friends, is the Jenny in me,
The Jenny in you.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for all the people who have touched our lives. May we live each day in such a way that we make that day a little brighter for someone.