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AT HOME AND FAR AWAY
May 26, 2008
 
In a stroke of genius, the Monday morning prayer officiant moved the service to 9am from 7:30am, in honor of everyone being on holiday from work. More people than usual showed up at that civilized hour. We prayed George Washington's prayer and another prayer for peace, remembered the names of the fallen for the past week and the people currently in harm's way. And we emerged from the church into a bright sunny Memorial Day morning.

On such a day, it was natural to wander over to the memorial garden. Mary rang the big iron bell that hangs from one of the trees there, to say hello to Bill. Their son made that bell out of an old oxygen tank, and it tolls a fine deep tone. I rang it to say hello to Denise, who is new to the garden. We walked around and looked at plants, picking up the occasional twig. I got a nice handful of young dandelion greens for Q's lunchtime salad. We talked of work that needs to be done here and there, but mostly we just enjoyed the beauty of the morning and the place. Q and I will be in the garden when it is time for us to go there -- next door to each other, I hope. Not that we'll really mind where we are, not then. Only the living fuss about where they are, and next to whom. The dead are fine with whatever.

They are fine with everything, now. This is heartening to us, because we are apt to remember them most vividly at the end of their lives, when most of them were not fine, as we were not fine with their going. If it was hard then, as it almost always is, it is deeply comforting to know that it is not hard now.

We forgot all about Old Glory, I said to Q, as we passed the old iron horse trough, now planted for the season and adorned with tiny American flags for the day. When we got home, he got out the flag and hung it while I did some weeding out front. He went to the parade on Main Street and I didn't. I could hear the high school band as I worked, though, and then the bagpipes, with the slow beat of their accompanying drums. Then the sirens from all the fire trucks.

A sweet, normal day, one like so many others. I worked in the sun for a couple of hours, and then sat on the bench in front to gaze at the garden. So lucky to be here, to be well, to be alive. So lucky for the sun to be my welcome, gentle friend -- in Iraq, its parching heat is not a welcome break from a spate of annoyingly cloudy days. In Iraq, it is a furnace in the sky. I think of all of them every day, those young people in military fatigues, carrying their heavy packs, watchful and tense. Hot, tired and thirsty. Wishing they were home.

Increasingly, I see every blessing I have -- and there are so many! -- in the sobering light of what they do not have. Whose idea was it that some of us would be so comfortable and others would sacrifice so much? May we be worthy -- or become worthy, if we are not now -- of what we are accepting so off-handedly from them, day after day, year after year.
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A Prayer of George Washington.
Except that it might really be Thomas Jefferson's.


Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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