Ah, Christine. Hair the color of a field of strawberries and skin white as cream. My ears always delighted in her lilting English accent, honeyed by, I presumed, from growing up in Yorkshire. Bright blue eyes swept the room, quickly taking in the surroundings. Never missing a detail or overlooking a need. She would sweep by, trailed by the scent of rose soap, forever fetching a morsel for my visit.

I blinked.

The dull, styled hair lay formed around her face. Concerns and cares a distant memory. Her skin, once transcendent, was waxy and cold. Eyes forever shut did not see the tears in the mourners’ eyes.

I let my eyes wander to her arms before catching myself. No, I don’t want to see the needle marks.

Why Christine?

The fruit has fallen from the vine. The cream has soured.

I turned away. My best friend in all this world sat next to his sister. Stoney silent. He stared blankly.

My heart aches, a dull echo of the faded trumpets.

Welcome to the brotherhood of motherless sons.

A Riverside Reflection

As I sit here in the twilight, listening to the dark waves of the James lapping gently at the shore, I am left with a number of conflicting emotions. I am without a doubt a reluctant Christian — reluctant to share, to risk and feel. Raised to fear God and be silent, I learned at a very young age that I was neither to be seen nor heard. God was a monolith, a summit that could never be reached, wrapped in the tapestry of rites and rituals that held no more meaning than understanding.

As Paul would say, my feet were firmly planted in the sand. So when the waves of trouble swept past, I quickly lost my footing and anchor point, and drifted away — flotsam of faithlessness.

I did try to grasp at my belief, but I found no comfort or relief in my pitiful attempts at petition.

Thus, I wandered away but never lost sight of the shore. Once again, my doubt served as rip-rap for the shoreline of my faith.

Still, those were dark times of loneliness and despair. My mother’s deathbed appeal to not abandon the church, which I came to understand meant my faith, kept me from doing things that were foolish and dangerous. For that, I will always thank her, though her gratitude would probably be tempered by my not being an Episcopalian. At least I stayed in touch with my core Christian values.

In that respect, I don’t see how kids today stay anchored when the tides of misfortune sweep in and batter the foundational pillars of our existence. Perhaps that is why we have such an addicted culture, as it seeks chemical salvation from the unmerciful “little” king of pharmaceuticals.

Having dodged the wide open door for the narrow one though, the land I traverse is filled with darkened valleys. Over the horizon, the sun is peeking.  Signposts loom ahead of me, but I’m unsure and uncertain where to go, and how to get there.

My doubt is somewhat assuaged by the persistent thought that there are no real alternatives, akin to what Simon Peter says in John 6:68, “to whom shall we go?” So I am resolved to my faith, not because I see “no alternatives” but because I only see the one. Yet, the path to redemptions hill is wrapped in the fog of uncertainty, as is the manner in which to scale it.

So I came here, to listen to messages about how I should be more than I am, and how I should be a light to shine in the darkness. But why can’t I find a way out of the shadows?

Surrender they say, but doing so is hard — my trust is simply not there — even relying on others is difficult – though not impossible.

I wonder if it is true that those who fear loneliness are simply afraid to be accountable to themselves. When the lights are out and others aren’t looking, are you emboldened to act in ways that don’t bring honor to God? If so, then consider that you are never truly “alone.”

As I look at the sun rising above the rippling waters of the river, I feel warmth come over me, a touch of something tangible, yet also ethereal. Maybe I’m not as lost as I feel. The sun is up, the day is waiting, and I must rise to meet it.