That would be my friend John, not Jesus. Jesus (thank God) does not talk to me.
Friends are the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive. Having a wide circle of them is having a cupboard stuffed full of miracle nutritional supplements, each bottle promising renewed health and vitality and joy. You take certain friends for inspiration, some for relaxation, others for reflection, a few for self-discipline, and as many as possible for the sheer fun of it.
Since John was an ardent fisherman, I considered him my fish oil. A dose of John always made everything better. And, unlike the real stuff, he never made me burp sardines.
John died with amazing grace right after Christmas. Yet my supply of his special Omega -3 has not diminished – that bottle is full whenever I need it.
Perhaps that’s what immortality is — the essence of what we mean to others, packaged up for perpetuity? Ready in the twinkle of a thought, even if the twinkling eye is lost to us?
I’ve been grimly trying to get back into the gym habit, very hard for me on these dark cold dreary days that call for hibernation and isolation and rich heavy food and hard liquor.
One night last week, I trudged wearily into the house after work and made all sorts of excuses about going back out — excuses that sounded pathetic and shallow even to my own ears.
Suddenly, I heard John’s voice. Now, I really hope that he has better things to do in the Great Beyond that to nag me about exercising. But he said, in that seemingly jovial tone that so often had inflexible steel beneath it, “You should probably just go ahead and do what you said you were going to do, Missy.”
So I did.
My family sings Supporting Songs for each other when necessary. It’s a nod to my grandmother O’Brien, who read the A.A. Milne books aloud to me when I was little. I still have those four dog-eared hard-cover volumes, inscribed to me in 1966 in her careful, tiny, precise hand:
“Would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?” asks Pooh.
I sent John supporting songs as he lay dying (more Faulkner; sorry; I’ve been trying to read Sustaining Books lately, and can never seem to resist a cheap allusion. And John didn’t take death lying down. Next time I hear from him, he’ll “tsk tsk” and take me to task for this).
My songs weren’t tunes of conventional consolation, but John didn’t mind listening.
From: Missy to John
Subject: Song in the Key of Pissed
Can I just say up front that God sucks?
I know that you are a person of faith and that I should not say this to you, especially right now when you’re fighting cancer. But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Is your cancer part of God’s grand and glorious plan? You’re being painfully punished WHY? A kind and loving God is looking down upon you right now and caring about you and watching out for you?
The same God was in Connecticut this morning, where 20 innocent little kids were gunned down (along with those 6 adults, innocent enough). He’s got you sick as hell, yet allows all sorts of psychopaths and rotten evil low-lifes to live and prosper?
That God is a sadist, and I want no part of him. So there.
From John to Missy
Re: Song in the Key of Pissed
I got a get-well card that said “When things are looking kinda gloomy, do as I do: Stare into the heavens, breathe deeply, and say, give me a @#$%& break.”
You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to see your body going to hell!! Rather quickly.
But I don’t blame anyone/anything for my situation. God has enough people to watch over than to try and make sure each of us is happy, healthy, and whatever. We’re given a decent brain, plenty of opportunity, and decision capability. That’s enough.
From: Missy to John
Subject: Song in the Key of Admiration
Well, John, I only hope that when I grow up I can have your grace. Or even a portion of it.
I realize that being pissed off at God is the reaction of a spoiled little girl stamping her foot because she didn’t get what she wanted. I try to stay objective and accept that I’m really not the center of the universe.
Hell, I’m not even Pluto, stripped of its planet status.
Pluto’s fate was like that of Saint Christopher, abruptly defrocked. All through childhood, my family’s cars were protected by St. Christopher medals — he was the patron of travelers, and kept you safe via an embossed gold magnet with blue felt on the back that adhered to the dashboard (back in those quaint days of yore when cars weren’t made of plastic). When the church demoted him, I immediately ordered Saint Christopher medals for my own cars, just out of loyalty (and perhaps spite).
I still consider Pluto a planet, too.
A decent brain, plenty of opportunity, and decision capability: All we really need, given a cupboard full of vitamin friends and a good single malt.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
–Winnie the Pooh