Elegy for My Father

biscuits-by-pen-waggener-on-flickrMy father: Roy Franklin Harmon, Jr., M.D., passed away on September 22, 2016 at the age of eighty-seven. He was the best man I will ever know. Difficult as it was, my mother wanted me to say something at his funeral service that would at least attempt to encapsulate something of his character. I chose the following story, which captures only a small part of the incarnational Christianity that he practiced.

There is not world enough and time to relate all of the stories about a man as great as my father. They would stretch from a boyhood in Mississippi that was poor but love-filled, through a young manhood of devotion and determination, into a career of courage and dynamism, and a later life of purpose and endurance. He lived his days in bold joy, in unending commitment and generosity of self. He was, to the end, a happy warrior.

But I cannot tell all of those stories now. Only one, of those thousands I could share, must suffice: [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Visitation Rights” by Jeffrey Harrison

funeral flowers by Elvert Barnes on flickr_with writing edited outI sometimes talk to friends who have died. Especially to friends who acted as spiritual guides for me during their lives here. I continue to ask their advice when I’m in distress or need guidance.  I believe there’s a very thin and permeable line between mortal life and eternal life. This is why Jeffery Harrison’s “Visitation Rights” resonates with me. The poem melds the living and the dead, past and present, in ways deeply true to psychological and spiritual reality. I also like the poem’s play with the word “visitation.” Its primary meaning here is the appearance on earth of someone who has died. But hovering within the word are always its supernatural reverberations—its meaning of an appearance to us of the divine—as well as its etymological kinship to “vision.” So it feels right that the poem closes by appealing to “visions,” expressing a desire for them that (the poem has argued) is fully justified.

—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

Middle Earth and Sister Moon

moon-public-domain-by-joe-jungman-on-flickrThe biggest moon I’ve ever seen was over the North Sea in Scotland. Many nights, I watched it from a bench overlooking the beach. The moon was absurdly large and luminous as it rose or perhaps sunk into the sea, so that I felt I was actually on its surface looking out into space at the earth dipping into the blackness of the universe.

Over the course of four years, I had the opportunity to watch the waxing and waning of this moon. My first year in grad school when I lived in student housing just behind a barrier to the beach, the sea and the moon were visible out the tiny kitchen window from the apartment I shared with three other women.

It was very cold those nights on the beach. Though most evenings that first year were cold to me. I moved there from Texas and the wind off the sea would beat against the outer stone wall where my bed was; sometimes I felt I would never be warm again. [Read more…]

The Neglected Garden, Part II

14374480496_991ff96353_zContinued from yesterday.

The dollhouse my father was building for me was still unfinished when he draped a boat tarpaulin over the top, to protect it against the summer rain. The doctor had told my parents that there was a tumor in his lung. He was being sent to the M.D. Anderson hospital in Houston, along with my mother.

My oldest, married, sister was coming home to take care of me temporarily, along with my 22-year-older brother, who had bottomed out back home after a period of college-dropout wandering. Together, they cobbled together a backyard party for my eighth birthday, and in the now-faded, garish color of the Kodachrome prints, the unfinished, covered dollhouse is visible.

Four months later, my father was dead. It was the coldest winter there had been in my lifetime. For the first time, a crust of sugar snow dusted the brown pecan leaves that had scattered, unraked, across the yard. [Read more…]

Fit for Immortality?

4290784933_312dfbb2ed_z-2“How’s your health?” my long-time friend asked me with concern.

“The leukemia is creeping toward trouble zone,” I answered, “and I’m not sleeping much, so sometimes I’m pretty wiped. I don’t deal well with physical discomfort.” Then I added, laughing but serious, “I feel ready for eternal life.” [Read more…]