Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Father's Bones

Exodus 13:19 (New Living Translation)
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear to do this. He said, “God will certainly come to help you. When he does, you must take my bones with you from this place.”

It was early morning yesterday when I sat down in my room of olive green to read and pray.

Opening my tattered and love-worn Daily Light, I momentarily caught my breath, for on the top of the page I had written 5 years ago, "Dad's homegoing."

The day had taken me by surprise.

I read the scriptures for the day, taking special comfort from many of the verses, but one in particular:

Psalm 61:2 (New King James Version)
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

The verse took me back to my childhood.

On top of my parent's shiny dark brown wooden wardrobe, with the intricately engraved handles, there was a battered cardboard box.

I used to enjoy hauling it down from its dusty perch, plonking it on the bed and unpacking the contents. I never tired of the ritual of looking through the embossed brown leather covered photo album, with the delicate, opaque paper separating the pages on which were black and white photographs of my mother's family in wartime Holland. Towards the end of the album the scenes in the photos changed to England. My beautiful mother, her dark hair falling to her shoulders in curls, standing outside St. Paul's cathedral, or leaning over a bridge above the river Thames, about to meet my father by chance in Hyde Park.

There were envelopes; of brown manilla and white, holding more photographs. I would open them one by one, looking at the young faces of my aunts and uncles and grandparents.

And there was a scripture text, on a large piece of cardboard, prettily decorated with flowers, that looked as if it was given for a wedding gift. The text was part of Psalm 61:2:

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I

Like a spiritual sponge in the arid desert of my childhood, I often looked at that verse. It was significant to me that it should be in the readings for the day Dad died.

I snapped out of my reverie and called Mum's number in England. "Oh, hello Belinda," she said, and the pleasure in her voice was palpable.

I heard my brother's deep voice saying to her, "I knew she would call." He picked up the extension.

They were planning an expedition to the village churchyard where Dad lies. I asked them to touch the stone for me. "We will Belinda," Robert promised. They didn't think it a strange request; my father's bones lie there.

Later I read in Exodus how Moses took the bones of Joseph with him when the people of Israel left Egypt and I think of how precious the thread of connection is--with one another; and those who are "ours" and are gone.

No comments: