O Soul, Await
What do you say. What can you say.
Last week I was thinking about funerals, about the resurrection, about baptism.
About how many people I've lost that I was truly close to (only a handful, which changes with a terrible rapidity the older we get).
I was thinking about those gone "too soon", as we say. How awful it is for a husband to bury a wife, a wife a husband, a parent their child. There was no real conclusion to these thoughts. God alone knows why people go at the appointed time, and much as that rips us to shreds, we don't get to decide if it was "too soon". I was thinking about the comfort of knowing someone was baptized: even if you have nothing else to go on, that means something.
Then on Sunday we sang "God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It". A memory of sitting next to Aaron at the PCR conference almost 2 years ago flashed back. I wasn't convinced about Lutheranism at that point. Neither was he. We sat there sight-reading all those runs of notes a bit hesitantly, if I remember correctly, laughing a little about how hard it was. This Sunday, I knew what I was singing and why, and rejoiced in it, and wondered how Aaron was doing.
I had noticed he was withdrawing, seen that his Twitter and Facebook were gone. I had disconnected with him on Instagram, not exactly offended by what he was posting, but saddened at what looked like a loss of faith. I didn't feel I had the right to reach out and ask how he was, what was going on.
As I said - it's not like I knew him well. That would have taken a lifetime, if it were at all possible. Aaron was a mystery, like most INFJs: you were only going to ever see a little facet of the gem, a little outcropping of the iceberg. I know he was left-handed (another thing that endeared him to me) I remember talking about tattoos over bourbon. I remember how quiet he was in person, how deeply introverted, how smart, how hilarious. He felt like a kindred spirit. Brief as our interactions were, I felt we understood each other the way siblings do. There is no need to explain a family joke when you are cut from the same cloth. What I knew about Aaron was not necessarily even things I learned about him, but things I knew about myself.
And the poetry. His poetry came into my life at a time I desperately needed it - heartbroken and reeling, going through my own crisis of faith, I did not know how to put into words what I was experiencing. That came later, but I think in part it came because I had read what Aaron wrote. That white-hot heat that comes from mixing love and grief, faith and doubt, the sacred and profane, lit so many of his poems.
His site is still up - I would encourage you to spend some time there, and save what you like, because there is no guarantee it will stay up.
My favorite piece of his was entitled "O Soul, Await". It was removed from the site at some point. I was able to track it down, and hope it is okay if we republish it here [Ediotr's Note: The poem will gladly be removed upon request]. I find this extraordinarily comforting as we mourn the Aaron we knew, even if only a little bit.
O Soul, Await
There is a casket
filled with the bones of tears
in each one’s heart
and it rattles
it rattles all the long night
as we peer into the starlit silence
through a veil of ashes
O Christian soul, redeemed
there is a Light
Whose closeness to you is as certain as
God is three in one
Whose love for you
is a love that outweighs the mass of all the stars
the stars which are named by Him
which worship Him
and which span the edge of infinity
across the long night
And when the veil of ashes
chokes your heart
and rains its tears
blackened by the loss of hope
O soul, await
for He is faithful
He is Light
He is Truth
And when you think you are clinging
to the hem of His robe
you are lost in the folds
of His arms robed in white
which have covered you
through the long night.
ἀμήν ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ**
* = Lord, have mercy
** = Amen, come, Lord Jesus