The parson pulled his car into the parking lot at the recreation area of Fort Mountain State Park. He, along with Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, and Charlie’s girlfriend, Penny, more appropriately addressed as Princess Penny, had been hiking the trails that wrapped around the mountain, skirting the overlook as well as “The Wall” an ancient worship site for pre-historic Native Americans. It had been a long, long, hike, but was one he took every October 3rd and would continue to do so until his age prohibited it.
Opening the rear driver-side door of the car, the parson affixed a leash to each of the dog’s hiking harnesses. Both then jumped from the car, and, knowing where they were, did not wait for the parson’s directions. They headed to the beach of the lake, tugging on their leash, waded into the water up to their necks and began to lap. Though it was a fall day, the long, long hike had accentuated their thirst.
Thirst quenched, they emerged from the water and in unison shook the water from their hides. The parson smiled then turned to walk, both dogs followed for a moment and then decide to take the lead, once again knowing their destination. That target was the dumpster behind the pavillion where the parson deposited the bag of litter he’d picked up along their hike. Thankfully, this time it was a small bag.
As the parson began to return to his car he heard a familiar voice, “Hey, Parson, hey, Parson; I’ll be darn; who’d think I’d run into you this afternoon.”
Hello, Greg,” the parson greeted. Greg Halloway, a friend who served a church a few counties east, had been a friend of the parson for several decades.
“It’s really good to see you,” said Greg. “How have you been?”
“Good, Greg, really good. It’s great to see you. How’s Karen?”
“She’s doing really well, Parson. We’re both excited over becoming grandparents. I don’t think I’ve told you, but William, the oldest, and his wife now have a beautiful granddaughter. You should see her. She’s precious.”
“I bet she is,” said the parson. “I bet she is.”
Greg pushed his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. Charlie Brown and his girlfriend, Penny, both simultaneously plopped down on their stomachs as if in anticipation of a serious discussion about to begin. “Parson, I want to apologize. I wasn’t there for you. I mean, when Lynn died, I just wasn’t the person I ought to be in supporting you. I didn’t come to see you and, worse than that, I didn’t even call. I guess I’m telling you this because, well, Karen and I noticed on your blog this morning that it was Lynn’s birthday. And that made us feel really bad.”
The parson motioned Greg over to a picnic table. Charlie Brown and Princess Penny, both with moans of resentment, followed. Greg and the parson sat down on opposite sides of the table.
“Greg, I really appreciate your words. And I want you to know there’s no reason for feeling guilty about this.” The parson and Greg then entered into a conversation where the parson talked about his experiences with death and mourning after the loss of two wives. He shared with Greg his realization that folks felt awkward in trying to “be there” for friends who were in mourning, how that introduced feelings of inadequacy and fears of mortality. He shared with Greg the inadequacy of any words that might be spoken. As the conversation progressed he talked to Greg of the complete inadequacy of words and the healing of presence.
“I don’t know how you do it, Parson,” said Greg. “I mean, death is such a final thing. And you’ve lost two spouses. How do you do it?”The parson smiled, “Well, Greg, there comes a point after the death, when you get up in the morning and you make your bed. That’s the turning point, Greg. Every morning, now, I make my bed. I make it military style. You could bounce a quarter on the covers. I make the bed, Greg, to signal to myself the night is over and a new day has begun.”