(In memory of Dan & Phil Berrigan)
The singing rose and fell around us, but I wasn’t joining in. I knelt, one hand on my mother’s back, the other gripping the wooden pew in front of me. I prayed to God, if he was listening, for him to heal whatever was wrong with her. Or at least tell the doctors what it was so they could treat it.
Times like this, I wished that I had magic. Or some outside force I could touch and taste and see to intervene, like the Murray family in A Wrinkle in Time. My parents bought me that book when it came out. I devoured the whole series, one after another.
They were still my favorite books, even though my Dad said I was too old for them.
Mom coughed into her favorite peach handkerchief, pale skin pink with effort, heightening the contrast with the purplish blue circles underneath her hazel eyes.
I winced every time the hacking rose up, rattling, despite her efforts to hold it back. To quiet the rasp that I knew was so painful to her lungs.
Test after test after exhausting test, coming home with no news once again. This had been going on for almost a year now.
And there wasn’t one thing I could do, except keep my head down, go to school, cook my dad breakfast and keep the house clean. And read.
Tucking the peach hankie up the sleeve of her cream colored sweater, Mom closed her eyes to pray, head bowed, green scarf tied tightly at the base of her neck, wisps of pale red hair escaping around the edges.
She shouldn’t be breathing in the frankincense and myrrh that rose in clouds of smoke, gray wisps dancing through the white vault of the church. I had tried to get her to sit further back, away from the action, but she liked to be close in. Said it made her feel closer to God.
I saw what she meant, as I gazed up at the dome above the giant marble slab of altar, where Father Bryan in his green robes was readying the water and the wine for communion. It was pretty up here. And being closer to the altar could make a person feel closer to God, I guessed.
The altar boy handed Father Bryan one cruet, then the other, and the priest mixed them in the heavy golden chalice.
Jesus rose, white robed and beautiful with long dark hair, painted like a cloud above the altar. Above the more gruesome image of his tortured body hanging naked, ribs protruding, on the wooden cross.
“There is no resurrection without sacrifice,” Father Bryan always said. That was meant to be an admonishment to us, to give up pleasure, to work hard in school, and I supposed, to embrace the beatings my friends got regularly from parents too drunk, angry, or scared to do anything else.
We were the sacrifice for the previous generation’s bewildered pain. So they could rise again. [Read more…] about The Holiness of Trashcan Fires