01 February 2018

Solomon, Boxcar Willie, & Gran'pa

JMJ
The Readings for Thursday, 4th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
ἰσχύσεις καὶ ἔσῃ εἰς ἄνδρα
confortare, et esto vir
וְחָזַקְתָּ֖ וְהָיִ֥יתָֽ לְאִֽיש
Take Courage and show yourself a man.

This is one of those places where the Greek of the LXX, the Masoretic Hebrew, the Latin of Jerome and the English all line up. Take courage and be a man.

Life is like a mountain railroad,
With an engineer that’s brave;
We must make the run successful,
From the cradle to the grave;
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels;
Never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail.

I can imagine Solomon coming to his Father's deathbed... 

In those last days of the 20th Century whenever there was a cheap, last minute fare from San Francisco to Atlanta, I would book a flight on Tuesday and be at SFO Friday, after work. Most times it was a redeye. Mom would meet me at Hartsfield in Atlanta, and we'd be at Grandpa's house before Lunch. (Sometimes we'd stop at the Varsity and surprise Grandpa and his wife with chili dogs and fried peach pies. I would be in San Francisco by 10AM on Monday, just a bit late for work. 

Grandpa had been unable to do much, but to get up and move from the Bedroom to the Living room for most of two years. There had been some trips out, yes. And, for a while, he had welcomed guests, sitting around the living room. Even then, meals usually happened without him present at the table. At Thanksgiving or his Birthday we might gather around him for grace, but I usually led grace because his breathing was bad. In the final months there was an oxygen tank to move. So, often, staying in bed was easier.

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach the blissful shore,
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

I was able to get home a couple of times after 9/11 on this plan, before Amurica Muscled Up her security and made travel far less free than it had been previously. And I was there for time between Christmas and New Years. But leaving there, that morning in January of 2002, Grandpa had not gotten out of bed, so we went to his bedroom to say our goodbyes. And he hugged Mom and said she should drive safe: she didn't like his new beard. He hugged me really close and whispered into my ear. "Live a good life".  

I held myself together walking to the car, but Mom and I were both crying as we drove away, because I would never see him again. It's one of those moments...

Solomon is standing there, not sure what to say to this man who fathered him, who killed a giant, whom God picked, who ran from the king, who lost his son, his father, and his best friend in rebellions; a poet to whom God spoke as to a dear Friend, bypassing prophets and priests unless they were needed to make a point. Were Solomon to know that even today this man's poetry is read 4-9 times daily by every priest, by every Monk it would make it all the more terrifying, I think. Even were Solomon to know the impression he would make on History, it's this man, passing away now, that made that possible.

What do you say? And sure there were tears.

You will roll up grades of trial;
You will cross the bridge of strife;
See that Christ is your conductor
On this lightning train of life;
Always mindful of obstruction,
Do your duty, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,

And your eye upon the rail.

ἰσχύσεις καὶ ἔσῃ εἰς ἄνδρα
confortare, et esto vir
וְחָזַקְתָּ֖ וְהָיִ֥יתָֽ לְאִֽיש

Take Courage and show yourself a man.
And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and observe his ceremonies, and his precepts, and judgments, and testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses: that thou mayest understand all thou dost, and whithersoever thou shalt turn thyself: 
Live a good life.

Walk in his ways so that thou mayest understand all thou dost.

Here, the Greek, the Hebrew, and the Latin go someplace (together) that no English bible other than the Douay follows. They all say that following the ways of the Lord will bring you a better sense of what you're doing. (The Greek says "kata" you'll be doing things according to the way they should be done...) It only becomes "Prosper" in English, as if the Prophet David were in the Prosperity Gospel. But, no, he tells Solomon to follow the laws of the Lord because then he'll be doing things right. Live a good life and this will all make sense. Maybe not now.. but then wait. Do your job. Say your prayers. 

That's all we have to do: pick up the cross, follow Jesus. take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in your belts. Do your job, say your prayers. Live a good life. 

You will often find obstructions,
Look for storms and wind and rain;
On a fill, or curve, or trestle
They will almost ditch your train;
Put your trust alone in Jesus,
Never falter, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,

And your eye upon the rail.

Grandpa was dead by Epiphany. Delta broke every new rule in the book to get me there for the funeral. And I sang the song that is part of this post at his request: life is like a mountain railway. Only he and I would get it: for I learned my rootless ways from him, the man who had ridden the rails as a hobo, who had journeyed to the Panama Canal when it was freshly dug, and who had served his country keeping the Wrong Boats from going up the canal.. and then, later, as an armed guard on an Army Train taking Comstock Silver from San Francisco to the mint in Denver. This song was like Grandpa's last note to me. Beyond live a good life... it was this.

And recounting even that much, maybe you learn about me too: for he was the only Father I really ever had.  Even though Mom remarried I never bothered to pay much attention to my stepdad until Grandpa passed away.

Solomon, resting on David's bed, heard lead a good life. It's hard to breath... and there was time for poets to fill it in later. Follow God's commands and you will understand it all. Same for Grandpa, he got to pick the poet, though.

As you roll across the trestle,
Spanning Jordan’s swelling tide,
You behold the Union Depot
Into which your train will glide;
There you’ll meet the Sup’rintendent,
God the Father, God the Son,
Welcome good and faithful servant,
Weary pilgrim, welcome home!”

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach the blissful shore,
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.






Look: you gotta go say goodbye. And you love them. You do gotta say it. It makes all the difference. All of it.