Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Love is not a victory march

I've heard there was a secret chord

My uncle Wayne was a scientist. I mean, like the Platonic ideal of a Scientist, a man who seemed to love nothing more than asking questions about the world and being utterly delighted when the answers conflicted with what he'd expected (but seemed especially excited when he was closer than the last time).

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

Whenever we met, we seemed to spend at least a few minutes talking, just the two of us. What made these conversations remarkable was that, from the very first one I remember, he talked to me like I was just a person in the room with him. Not like I was a burden or responsibility, not like I was a child, even, but just as a person. I'm sure we talked about childish things, but he always seemed to enjoy it.

But you don't really care for music, do you?

One thing we never talked about, that I can remember, was music. If he's anything like my dad, he liked the classics - Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys. Unfortunately, I'll never get to talk to him about music.

It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth

It was late in the day on the 4th when my dad called. Honestly, I'd anticipated the tone of voice he had. Pensive, nervous, sad. I'd imagined it would be a call about my grandfather, who's over 90 and has had some setbacks in his health. It wasn't. My Uncle Wayne died that day. We don't know too many details, and will never know all of them, but I don't really care about any of that. I took the next day off work and spent the next couple of days moving between trying to live and reeling from what had happened.

The minor fall, the major lift

On July 7th, I drove my son Graeme to the Ranch at Word of Life. It's his first week awake at camp. Over the course of the four-hour drive, we listened to audio books, sang to the radio and in all other ways greatly enjoyed each other's company. It was wonderful, really, and even the ride back, through the beautiful countryside, felt like a celebration. It was life. It was glorious.

Around the Vermont/New York border, Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" came on the radio. At the first few notes, I pulled over into a strip mall parking lot. I listened all the way through, crying so hard that tears ran down my arms*. When it was over, I gathered my wits about me, and prayed. Then, I headed home. Catharsis.

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

There's no good thing that I can see coming from death. Yeah, I know, "God works all things together for good," but my uncle Wayne is dead and he's not coming back. I can't think of anything that can counterbalance that. What does balance it? I still have his books, and he's instilled in me a lot of that curiosity he always showed. When I talk to my boys about science, I hear Wayne's words said in my voice, and it makes me happy. He taught me to smile, and to talk to children like they're humans. He taught me well, and, hopefully, if I'm doing this "living" thing right, I've brought him a little of the joy he gave me. I don't think I can ever fill the hole he left, but it's something.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Amen and amen.

* Yes, my arms. How does that even . . .?

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