The Last Battle

Is it the ongoing isolation of a pandemic that is the cause of my lack of concentration? Is it my age? The change of going from weekly writing of sermons to my own writing? I don’t feel a restless “cabin fever” so much as a desire to watch and listen. There’s a lot to see and hear. An ever-present grief uncovered in more layers, peeled back to a wound that runs so deep it is a wonder that all has not crumbled around us long ago. Justification of hatred, greed, genocide, a system built on viewing others as less than human, abuse of power, blaming, denial, these are strong, strong forces on display for all to see and view. They cut a swath of power hunger, of white supremacy and lies, of illness and viruses run rampant. Now I have the time to stay watching and listening while working at healing.

I come back around in my watching and listening to Temma, my daughter. I come back around to her always. I remember a dream I wrote down many years ago. It may have been before we moved to Chicago. Temma was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and we lived there her first four years before moving. In my dream, Faith, leading a group of others, is riding into a final battle on horseback. I’m watching them pass by and telling them that this last battle is taking place in Temma’s special ed. preschool classroom.

Could you think of anything more ironically opposite? A mighty woman warrior with her companions, on powerful horses, ready for battle with weapons and armor and flags. And the battle is taking place in the lowest of the low places with the inhabitants who are so utterly unprepared for any kind of war-like fight, so dependent on someone else to give what they need, yet with so much resolve and readiness to hang on to life. At that age, a lot of Temma’s life and the lives of her classmates in her pre-school are lived out on the floor, on a mat or a bed, or in someone’s arms. Being with them requires getting down and reaching with your entire body. Some of them are hooked up to machines breathing or suctioning for them, feeding and hydrating their bodies. Being with them requires listening to the sounds of life, inter-dependent life and the building up of community.

Today, I have a simple painting by my husband Tim, hanging on the wall next to my computer screen. It’s a painting of Temma’s hand. Her elbows are out of joint from muscle spasticity. Her fingers are forever curled in the fist of a newborn, thumb tucked under, pinky finger about the only one that occasionally moves. (I can remember when Temma was still quite young, a friend of mine with five children of his own, telling me that she would “grow out of” such a hand fist; she’s now thirty-five-years-old.) Temma’s hand is reaching up and out from the bottom of the painting, casting a shadow on the wall. Those fingernails, pink and beautiful, perfectly formed, were one of the first things I noticed on my just-born baby when we were in the hospital recovering from the birth process together.

The painting is a plea, an iconic reminder, a pinky-pointing to me to keep on loving, to continue growing in love, to use my voice and my power to preserve life and build community without weapon, violence, or abuse. It’s an ongoing struggle, maybe even the last great battle.

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