For my friends, my teachers,
at City Light Community Ministries
and for Ken, Bam, Brian, and Alan–the Apostles of
Wisteria Place Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
Every day bodies tumble from high buildings, achieving maximum velocity, the streets below spinning kaleidoscopic colors clicking their stained-glass windows, the pavement appearing, waiting for the inevitable. Then the angel intervenes.
Does Nature or God teach an ash tree when to release a limb the thickness of a man’s body and before giving way, cry out its warning, a ripping, tearing sound like ligaments and flesh being torn from bone so the man who has been spared once again can step back as if for a better view of half a tree falling past his head, a vision of the twilight-gray penumbra shimmering around a distant lighted doorway he will not yet be invited to enter, a voice he has come to comprehend as language he did not suspect he had time to learn again?
Even now a man is waiting in the parking lot of the downtown church, its hinged double doors swung wide, burdens dropped in the cardboard collection box, one flap having been torn off ragged by the man offering this sign his wife lettered with a crayon dropped by a child knowing the man would need this writing instrument to place in his wife’s hands and fold them over the treasure so they can share in large block letters on the cardboard testament its one word sown to fall among thorns and stony places, strange birds gathering at the unexpected feast, invitation for those accustomed to being shooed away, a clapping of wings, a joyful sound composed at the edge of the parking lot where the man and his wife lift up the cardboard tablet with its one word, a child’s word against silos and towers, clanging cymbals, deafening trumpets–ashes, ashes. The word the only color.
So hallelujah for the four friends gathered now around a table in the banquet room of all who have been collected from almost-forgotten breakfast nooks of glass-top tables with wicker chairs padded with pastel cushions the shade of bougainvillea blossoms, morning glories, sunshine through the high window recollected just before the cloud and darkness.
Now they have been wheeled in to park at assigned places of little ones displaced from city transit, taxies, and commuter lanes, fast-track to here where they are now the meek, student nurses’ hands spooning sugar and a patty of margarine into lukewarm oatmeal, stirring and scooping a glob cranked inch by inch toward a mouth hanging open to receive such sustenance like the gifts of childhood, the touch they wait for, that mystery of angels stirring waters of healing on a day that could be any other day except the four friends are waiting at the banquet, having arrived at their kingdom of heaven blessed with the friend they once lowered through a roof, having removed clay tiles the shape of their friend descending on his blanket, ropes tied to the corners, to land at the feet of the savior, the crowd parting, and the withered friend being told his sins were forgiven and as a bonus why not rise and walk.
And now that friend brings a box of harvest muffins and a stand-up routine they laugh at, mouths filled with muffin, blessed at last to be the castaways confident of rescue once a week, or every other. No matter.
Theirs is the inheritance of an earth they could not suspect. Theirs the comfort, the mercy they have shown, their hunger and thirst filled with a harvest they never anticipated, rejoicing in this kingdom of children, helpless now, having been called to come, at last, first after all.