Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Memory

I am so close to finishing the loft room at last; filling my last banker's box; this one with funeral bulletins, wedding invitations--that kind of thing--I can't steel myself to throw away these evidences of lives lived.

Yesterday evening, I picked up one small bundle of cards inside a bulletin that declared "A Service to Celebrate the Life of Christopher Cater--4th May 1921--22nd January 2003. My dad's funeral.

"How fitting," I thought, "That I should find this on the eve of Remembrance Day," for he was an old soldier; a role fulfilled for a just a few of the overall span of his almost 82 years, but one which once played, forevermore changed and defined him.

Inside the bulletin are two hymns: The Lord is My Shepherd, and Just As I Am, a hymn that meant something to Dad, even though he staunchly wrestled with God as though he was somehow the enemy. Here is the last verse, which with all my heart I pray was true for him:

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Text: Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871

On the back of the bulletin is a poem I chose because I loved it:

Prayer of a Soldier in France

My shoulders ache beneath the pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back.)
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart.)
Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek.)
I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.
(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)
My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come.)
Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.
So, let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

Joyce Kilmer
(He was an American poet and journalist who died on the battlefield in World War 1)

Today we remember, and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much. We pray, too, for those sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers who are in harm's way overseas. Dear Lord, watch over them.


Marilyn said...

I found this very moving, all the way through, from the poppies to "can't steel myself to throw away these evidences of lives lived" to the ending prayer.

Thanks, too, for the Joyce Kilmer poem. Such a deep devotional! If he had not gone to a dark place, he could not have written it.

mercygraceword said...

When I was small my grandmother had the poem Trees on her wall, and all these years I've thought Joyce Kilmer was a woman.
The poem you've posted is even more beautiful. Thank you.


Belinda said...

Deborah, I didn't connect this poet with the beautiful poem Trees. I'm so glad you mentioned that! We both learned something new today. :)
Thank you!

Susan said...

I had to look it up again... and in so doing, found a little addendum about billboards I'd never seen before...

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer.

And then...

"I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all."