Tag: chapel

Just Once

Today is Ash Wednesday? My childhood Anglican Chapel with stained glass windows weeping blood tears into nesting pigeon, and my parents managing to look happy while duelling bass & alto at a Lenten anthem….

Pic Credit Ismael Paramo

Five minute Friday writers

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Gran insisted on a fast. Dad couldn’t bear the thought. Ma, she balanced the two acts with ease: gram- curry, complete with red boiled rice in ghee – kanji. Which was essentially Rice boiled water. Which Dad hated with his life. But he loved the protocol of sad-ish days! And this was a sad-ish event. Ash Wednesday hailed a new trek around a live Cross: over the next 40 days old songs would be nailed in new ways, new flowers cut for old vases, the brass Cross got polished all over again till you saw your face in it when they carried it down to the altar on Good Friday, weeks down.

Auntie Sukam wore her grey silk and brooches with foundation cream, stark cream in her brown face, the lipstick was always pale mauve on Ash Wednesday: Christ would notice, she had this aura of beautiful pain around her long ageing eyes, its crinkles running up her temples. When aunt Sukum sang you wanted to stop staring at the lit up pigeon and close your eyes and listen to it all. To the wheezing Organ, to the Padre’s high tenor killing it, to the roar of distant town bus and the occasional water pump bleating in Taj compound, the tourist hotel with four rooms and one tiny tower overlooking us all in the chapel with wild lilies outside. Its a lot to remember all of a sudden, not just us in stages of life, but Christ Himself and what He was doing back then, and now- seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding with pleas for the best and the worst of us:

I’m staring at this beautiful Ash. And Him on that Cross, that once. That was all it took. That Once; yes festivals can grow silly, sour, overdone, or flatten out with Time; there’s no one I know now that bares mauve lipstick and Grey silk reeking of mothballs, nor sings like old Chapel folk @’Old Rugged Cross’…

It never goes out of me: that spirit of the Lent. The word derived from Lean, as in Leaning, Lent. To lean on a Strength, on Redemption, on Grace, on Hope, on Love. To lean, I lent on His Memo of Salvation. I’ve never really celebrated this day as any particular event, but early this morning as a few pigeon messed my fern, and I went waving all arms to shoo them away, I remembered to remember the way this feels, in Present Tense:

The Cross – a tense all by Itself, an Entity. I won’t pretend to even begin to describe Its Data. It crossed hell for heaven for us, and back. And forth. Via decades of nonsense and dis- ease, It never stopped following Humanity, in and out of graves, in and through crises and vanity fairs. Above and beyond all powers in high and low places, between This and That, Here& There, These & Those, the Cross was an event that happened ONCE, and It changed everything, present continuous, changes everything as we speak. Don’t ask me how it felt for Him , I’m still staring : at Him: Him Seeping Life into death.

Its not a sad season, It can change the way Humans Lean, and Whom on. Once we get that, it Hits you: This is the real deal.

The Stranger

He wore long curls under a hair band and old fashioned jeans with wide trousers folded in a hem that half sagged as if unsure of the Times. The sun fell in his uncombed locks needing a wash but it didn’t matter. It had an educated look about it, casual disgrace. It was the funeral of a dear brother, we stood around the sunny open air chapel Gate#1, wanting to weep but the sun shone hard. Tall trees above us burned lemon gentle yellow. “It is well with my soul,” we sang. The lyrics fell into us, there’s no other way to say it. Funerals of good people do this to me. The man with the locks stood like a statue two feet from where I leaned on a pillar. He hadn’t moved; his shoulders crouched with either fatigue or sorrow. He must be a close relative? The chapel steamed with hushed love. VJ looked like Peace in his casket strung with garlands, wreaths, roses, jasmine bouquet, posies, petals in the floor around – it wasn’t like a mourning, it was a Graduation. A cousin broke down as he paid tribute, a niece, a sister, a classmate, colleagues, more wreaths- they crowded now in the floor like an unruly garden. No one stirred, light shifted. Two hours had gone by, the man with long curls stood like a rock his arms curled in at the fist. I lost sight of him then saw him again at the burial – he got as close as he could then moved politely away hugging himself, why was I looking at him. Everyone grieved soft. Polite smiles, and gentle farewell. The sky, a stark baby blue covered everything in more Light;

He moved closer to where we stood with VJ’s wife and daughter, then he hugged VJ’s wife with borrowing sobs. The daughter didn’t know who he was, he didn’t fit in with any of the groups here- work teams, relatives, church folk. The sobs mutated, no one else was crying that way. We had cultured tears, in the back of our eyes and throats. VJ was that kind of guy, he wouldn’t have wanted noise, or loud wishes. He was a tree planted by streams of living waters. A tree that bore fruit in quiet neat ways. Not spluttering in the earth, but growing gently.

He caught my eye for a quick moment as he stood back and wiped his tears; his hands were large, sunburnt, like his face with wide cheek bones and thick hair held back in fine wire band. Then he hung back a bit under tall trees swaying in occasional gust of breeze. February felt hot and cool at the same time in the cemetery with hundreds of memoirs of Life by our feet; not a place to discuss things in decibels. You wanted to rest, exhale.

The man wore a red and blackish windcheater over a once white Tee. Not 6 ft tall; wide shouldered, lowered gaze in the walk where others gathered to say things to VJ’s family, ‘visit us,‘ that kind of thing. The man lingered, not looking at anything in particular, then he slow-turned to leave.

Later we heard no one knew him at all. What was he, who? Perhaps…

a person blessed by VJ. Maybe a wanna be musician whom VJ heard out. Maybe he gave him some kind of help, he had that look about him: gratitude and pain.

Or maybe, maybe he was a chronic funeral crasher, identifying best among sadness. He seemed at peace in tears, not awkward in Grief’s ways. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I’ve seen them- some of us humans who fit in between lives of others, and we identify best in pain. Here we can weep out loud and not be misunderstood. Here there is solace, here there are grounds to linger in, in awe at loss. At farewells, at sermons that whisper at the Other Life, at the kind of Love that happens where we stare at that edge of the coffin. We are all one here, here there is no caste, creed, other separations of Humanity. Here we are one at this place where Life gazes at death, how futile even that is- when the spirit has gone ahead. It was apparent- VJ was not there. His absence a presence so loud you wanted to applaud his transition, his earth days done so well, and him now with God whom he worked for all his life.

The stranger’s face followed me home; we talked briefly about him. Then I had a headache and curled up in bed, but had to spill my thoughts here, blog. Perhaps:

between the Living and the Dead is a Race of Humanity belonging to neither (the living nor the dead); the corridors between the Two narrow down to one fine line and there they are- a People that identify best in places like Here, where pain is an acceptable emotion.

Perhaps. Though it is most likely this was a person VJ helped in some significant way, he was so like Christ, gentle steel and hard work, not choosing to be called Reverend; his songs hauntingly beautiful like his smile that said all. A man of few words, almost shy of being heard too much, except of the Christ he loved. Just the kind of man who reached out to strangers with no name…

(Few years ago VJ’s wife had been hit by a racing biker, hit bad enough, head injury, fractures. VJ did not breathe one word against him, no law suit, nothing. ‘The brother had something on his mind, surely. Else the accident wouldn’t have happened. I asked the Lord to bless him..” VJ said in our home months after the accident, not one trace of anger in him).

Now I’m thinking what if the stranger was that biker; but my thoughts they do run wild.

Photo Credit : Zach Taiji