So how did it get to be almost 2020, and how did I get to be an invisible elder? Ah, but I do not always go gentle into that good night! Today, for instance, I was on the leg press machine at the gym when a ditty on the blaring soundtrack caught my ear. Now, I do not object to lyrics about undulating booties and people on the dance floor wanting to go home with each other, etc. Only natural. But when I hear the f-word six times and counting in one song, I am compelled to act. I went to the desk, announcing myself to my young tattooed friend thusly: “Here comes trouble, again.” I pointed out that I’m a poet and as such I pay exquisite attention to every word I hear, especially when it’s imposed on a group, and I’m no prude, but I find the mindless repetition of the f-word to be both hyper-aggressive, woefully lacking in imagination, and probably not kosher with his boss. He confessed to having been zoned out as to the music, and yes, such language is against the gym’s policy, and he needs me. Then he changed the channel.
Venerable gym rat, ringing out the old year and doing my part for the new
In my work I use a lot of Bibles. The one I teach from is dear to me; it’s the Spiritual Formation Bible, NIV version: Growing in Intimacy With God Through Scriptures. I am the caretaker of two copies — one from Janice and Brenda to me, one from Brenda and me to Janice. Mine is on a shelf, Janice’s is open before me. Brenda has one at her house.
It occurs to me that these three Bibles, given in mutual love on our respective birthdays way back in 2000, are something like the Trinity, which keeps resisting our explaining, but whose flow keeps flowing and dance keeps dancing!
In the summer of 2016, Janice died suddenly. My son David wrote me: “I’m so sorry for your loss, mom. The kind of bond you had with her is the kind that can’t be broken by death or absence. I love you.”
Cherished words from a beloved son, one who has himself known the sudden loss of friends.
So Janice’s Bible came to live at my house, and occasionally I come across her ‘tracks’ in the form of a word or a passage neatly underlined, with sometimes a one or two word comment. Just this morning Richard Rohr’s meditation sent me to Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.” And lo, Janice had been there before me, with ruler and pen! I could go on about the good works of Janice Vaughn, her keen questing mind, her capable hands, her merry blue eyes.
Also in Janice’s Bible is a yellow post-it note she must have harvested somewhere in her house—perhaps the kitchen I remember so well—and placed where it would be safe forever. It says, “I love you Mom – Matt.” To which she added, “I love you too.”