I love you, mostly. You’re my friend. But you posted a Facebook meme that’s been going around. It reads:
“Just because I am pro-choice does not mean I am pro-abortion. It means I understand your choice is none of my fucking business, and I will always fight for your right to choose.”
I understand and at a certain level agree with this, but deep down inside, in the painful pit where the embryo my girlfriend and I aborted forty years ago still lives, I hate you for saying that the choice we made was “none of your fucking business!”
I retired from active parish ministry as a priest in the Episcopal Church in December 2018 after nearly 29 years in holy orders, more than half that time as rector of one parish. Since then, my wife and I have visited several Episcopal congregations in this and other dioceses on Sunday mornings, not as supply clergy and spouse but simply as visiting worshipers.
In nearly every case, we have been greeted by friendly people, found worship that is lively and engaging, enjoyed sermons that are masterfully crafted and well preached by erudite clergy, and left feeling that we have encountered a loving God in a vibrant community. Oh to be sure, we have been able to find minor aspects to criticize, but these are merely the quibblings of professional church geeks; sharing them is how we amuse ourselves on the drive home. In the main, though, we have been very impressed at how well the Episcopal Church follows the first great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
I don’t think that a single day has passed since my adolescence that I haven’t thought about death, my own death. Mortality has been a reality of life for me since my father killed himself in a drunken automobile crash when I was five years old. In my pre-adolescent years, I was convinced I would die before I turned 22; I’m forty-five years beyond that limit and death is a closer probability now than it has ever been.
Sometimes when I think about my death, I consider what it would be to die by accidental means. This is why I service my vehicle before long road trips, making sure the tires get rotated and properly inflated, having my service garage do its “88 point safety check” and change the oil, and making sure the safety box of road flares, bottled water, and space blankets is filled. This is why I stay behind guard rails at the Grand Canyon and Cliffs of Moher, and why at Dún Aonghasa on Inismór where there are no guards I stayed well back from the edge.
Lenten Journal, Day 34
My intention when I started this exercise in Lenten discipline was to write for an hour each morning with no preconceptions about what I would be writing. Just sit down, put a figurative piece of paper in my imaginary typewriter, and start pounding the keys. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but I have made the attempt (most days) to at least write something sometime during each 24 hour period.
Similarly, it was my intention to return to the gym (the Medina Recreation Center) this morning and do another half-hour of aerobic exercise on the recumbent crosstrainer and the indoor track. And similarly it’s not going to work out that way.
Lenten Journal, Day 31
A day or two ago, a Facebook friend posted a picture of a garment tag written in brutalized English, one of those things which may be entirely made up but which may also be an actual badly done translation from some Asian language. There is a website dedicated to such things, many are hysterically funny, most are just mind-bogglingly bizarre.
My friend’s tag included this oh-so-tantalizing term: “the peculiar smell of the inevitable.” I commented that it would make a wonderful book title. I used to have a list of potential titles for the tome that will never be written. I wonder what became of it. I can only remember the two that began it.
Lenten Journal, Day 29
So, typical of me, I let the Lenten discipline slide and didn’t write anything in this journal yesterday or the day before. In my defense, the first day was dominated by the “prep” for a colonoscopy and yesterday the procedure was done early in the morning; I spent the rest of the day sleeping off the Propofol used as anesthesia during the procedure.
That’s one of the drugs used in the capital punishment “cocktail,” by the way. One minute I was watching the nurse inject the stuff into my IV line; the next, I was in a different room, my wife at my bedside conversing with the gastroenterologist about radiation damage to my colon (that damage being a sequela of my treatment for prostate cancer). The rest of the day was spent mostly in a fog of unthinking, which is not the same thing as the cloud of unknowing by a long shot!
Lenten Journal, Day 24
Before I met my wife, I played racquetball a couple of times a week. I backpacked and went wilderness camping in the desert with friends. I rode a 15-speed bike to work. I was a downhill skier.
Before she met me, my wife played tennis. She went camping in the mountains of northern Nevada with her family. She rode her 12-speed bike across the continental US. She was a Nordic cross-country skier.
When we dated, we talked about these activities, imagining that we would share them with one another. We never did them as a couple . . . but we talked about them.
Lenten Journal, Day 17
Somewhere in memory is a room
Its walls are Navajo White, or possibly pale yellow
It is furnished with twin beds with quilted, green spreads
There is a dresser on the wall opposite the beds
Between the beds, a table with a lamp and a radio
The wall next to one bed holds the door to a closet
And on that wall, next to the corner of that wall and the dresser wall,
Is the door into the room
The middle of the wall next to the other bed is pierced by a window
It is the front wall of the house
And the window looks out onto the street
Lenten Journal, Day 5
“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’” This is a verse from today’s Daily Office Old Testament reading; it’s supposed to be Moses’ words spoken to the Hebrews about to enter the Promised Land as recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, a reminder of the debt of gratitude everyone owes to God, but today it reminds me of a political episode of a few years ago.
President Barack Obama, in a 2012 campaign speech, said, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.” The “that” in that sentence was meant to refer to “roads and bridges” he had just referenced in the previous sentence, to the infrastructure which he had just described as the “unbelievable American system” that allows businesses to thrive. That was clear to anyone who heard the speech.