|"If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. This book is amazingly well written. It isn't just a "good" book, it is a great one. It is bound to be a classic."|
I have already written a couple of quotes from the book, but here are a few more:
"I had been to visitations before and have been to many since and I've come to understand that there's a good deal of value in the ritual accompanying death. It's hard to say good-bye and almost impossible to accomplish this alone and the ritual is the railing we hold to, all of us together, that keeps us upright and connected until the worst is past."
"'Could I have your attention?' Deacon Griswold called. 'I'd like to ask Pastor Drum to offer a blessing for this meal.'Amazing book! One that I will reread through the years.
The room became quiet.
My father composed himself. He always spent a moment in silence before he prayed. His blessings tended to be comprehensive and include not just the immediate food on the table but reminders of all we had to be thankful for and very often a reminder of those who were not as fortunate as we.
In that silence while my father's head filled with the words he deemed proper, my mother spoke. She said, 'For God's sake, Nathan, can't you, just this once, offer and ordinary grace?'
There had been silence in the room, a respectful silence awaiting prayer. But that silence changed and what we waited for now was something filled with uncertainty and maybe even menace and I opened my eyes and saw that everyone was staring. Staring at the Drums. At the minister's family. Looking at us as if we were a disaster taking place before their very eyes.
My father cleared his throat and said into the silence, 'Is there anyone else who would care to offer the blessing?'
No one spoke and the silence stretched on painfully.
Then at my side a small clear voice replied, 'I'll say grace.'
I stood dumbfounded because, Jesus, the person who'd spoken was my stuttering brother Jake. He didn't wait for my father's permission. He rose from his chair and bowed his head.
I looked at all those people present none of whom could bring themselves to close their eyes and miss the train wreck that was about to take place and I prayed as desperately as I ever had, Oh, dear God, take me away from this torture.
Jake said, 'Heavenly F-F-F-.' And he stopped.
O God, I prayed, just kill me now.
My mother reached up and put her hand gently on his shoulder and Jake cleared his throat and tried again.
'Heavenly Father, for the blessing of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you. In Jesus's name, amen.'
That was it. That was the all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.
'Thank you, Jake,' my mother said and I saw that her whole face had changed.
And my father looked mystified and almost happy and said, 'Thank you, Son.'
And all of the people as if released from some hypnotic trance began to move again though slowly and got into line and filled their plates.
And me, I looked at my brother with near reverence and thought to myself, Thank you, God."
* * * * * * *
"'There was a playwright, Son, a Greek by the name of Aeschylus. He wrote that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'
'Awful?' I said.
'I don't think it's meant in a bad way. I think it means beyond our understanding.'
'I guess there are graces I like better,' I said."