Today, our 53rd wedding anniversary, is also the 17th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.
At the end of October 2001 the seminary held a community forum in the chapel. I agreed to speak from the platform. I didn’t know where to begin or end. So I began where I was and went from there.
It’s difficult to focus.
Voices and images
clamor for my attention,
my analysis of what is beyond all reason.
I force myself to stay close to the bone,
close to home, close to my Christian roots.
Death is in the room.
Not a new presence,
not even unexpected.
It, too, clamors for my attention,
masquerading in terrible new configurations.
I don’t want to die,
especially if I must suffer in my death.
From the throne of his cross,
the king of grief cries out….
‘Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by?’
There is no redemption
apart from suffering and death.
I want to be redeemed.
I do not want to die, or to suffer.
I’m not a very likely candidate for redemption.
Death is relentlessly in this room.
Unfinished family business is in this room.
Violent behaviors and attitudes
passed down from father to daughter;
Habits of not telling the truth,
passed down from mother to daughter;
Withholding of love and affection,
Relentless inspection and fault-finding,
Love wanting expression but finding no voice,
Truth wanting expression but finding no listening ear.
Unfinished family business is in the room with death–
A gnawing ache more than my body can bear.
I like to think I’m ready to die.
But I am not.
Nor will I ever be.
Not today, not tomorrow,
Not in a thousand tomorrows.
If I say I am ready to die,
I deceive myself,
and the truth is not in me.
There’s always more work to be done–
Unfinished family business
Unfinished seminary business
Unfinished church and community business
Unfinished personal business
Christ died to relieve me
of the awful, paralyzing expectation
that one of these days
I will finally be ready to die.
Christ finished his work so that
I could leave mine unfinished
without even a moment’s notice.
The Heidelberg Catechism says it all–
What is your only comfort in life and death?
My only comfort, in life and in death, is that I belong–body and soul, in life and in death–not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
(from the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563)
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 October 2001
* * * * *
(1) The forum was held in the seminary chapel; a large wooden cross hung on the wall behind the platform. Hence the reference to Christ’s death being in the room.
(2) The three lines beginning with “From the throne of his cross” are from John Stainer’s 1887 oratorio, The Crucifixion.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 September 2018