Sunday, March 22, 2009

SOLEMN PROMISE


(For Francis L. Snare, 1920–2009)

It is finished, old friend.
We have gathered and wept,
listened to sermon and song,
prayed, eulogized, remembered.
Said our final good-byes.

An uneasy assembly
seated first in a hushed room,
laden thick with flower scent,
then standing amid a field of stones,
with ragged sky overhead,
doves murmuring in the eaves,
wrens and sparrows singing
in the hedgerows beyond.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
We gave you back to the earth
you once worked and knew
by the sweat of your brow.
On this cool March morning
when spring’s hope begins
to fulfill its joyous promise,
a bit too early for wildflowers,
though purple crocus bloom
and red maples glow crimson,
we have done what we could,
what was necessary and right.

You always loved the spring,
would have delighted in this day.
I tell you, the creek down the hill
looks fishable! Clear and low,
riffles sparkling their secret pledge.
Smallmouth bass would surely
be stirring in the emerald pools,
responding to the ancient pull
of warm and increasing light.
Your laughter would be booming,
exhilarated by the sight, eager,
confident of the vernal potential.

Instead, a nearby workman leans
on his shovel, waiting patiently
for those who linger, reluctant,
slow to turn away and find their cars.

Where do we go from here?
After we’ve wound our way
along the few miles of rural backroads,
to the little country church where
a meal is being served to those
desiring food and fellowship.
What can we do after that?

We’ve bid you fond farewell,
though the gesture seems inadequate.
Yet those who knew your faith would not
call you back—even if we could.

Still, I make this solemn promise…
though seasons pass one into another,
so long as one of us standing here remains,
you will not be forgotten.

32 comments:

Gail said...

Hi -

This beautiful writing is for and about Frank, yes? It moved me to tears as I recall those in my life who live on though me, as well. Roads we traveled, secrets we shared, miracles witnessed, problems we resolved, love we nurtured, honor given, respect unyielding, hope renewed even in death, all still exists if only in amemory and yet vibrant.

Love Gail
peace......

Gail said...

e again-

somehow I missed the very first line whee rank's name is written. Heartfelt apologies. r maybe it is an amazing 'miss' since I knew it was about Frank without seeing his name first. And to think a month or so ago you and I didn't even know we each existed and today I humbly share in your beautiful friendship with Frank and understand the loss, intimately.

Love Gail
peace.....

Jenn Jilks said...

My condolences.
There is love, joy, respect, beauty in mourning.

Thank you for sharing it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a friend you must have been to him Scribe, that you can describe his passing in such loving and eloquent terms. Such losses leave gaps in our lives but the memories live on - each time you fish that river he will be there with you in spirit.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Yes, about Frank. I wrote it the day of his funeral, but wanted to wait a bit before posting.

Friendship, love, loss, they resonate deeply with those who've been there and remember.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I just wanted to try and put something of that day down. Somehow, this format seemed right—though whether I did much of a job or not I don't know.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I'm never sure how we fill those gaps, though; and maybe, we never do—we just go our way, along our own road, following whatever it is that keeps us getting up each day.

Frank was one of those once-in-a-lifetime men, though it still astonishes me that our friendship was so mutual, that somehow, somewhere in me he found as much as I did in him.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Grizzled, I can hardly see for tears. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. True friendship like this is so rare and precious - what a tribute you have given.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

I honestly don't know what to say except that true friendship is indeed rare and precious. I've never had a friend like Frank before, and never expect to have another. I don't think any man can ask for more than one best friend in his life—and he's bless if he ever finds that one. I do believe Frank's friendship was a gift, which came at a time in my life when I so needed those virtues which genuine friendship, and only genuine friendship gives.


Frank and I were decades apart age-wise. We came from different eras, different backgrounds. And yet…we recognized immediately our kindred spirits. He taught me so much about life at a time when I knew so little—because I thought I knew it all. In the end, I think true friendship—like true love—is a mystery. You can't define it, can't pull it apart and see what makes it tick; you can only enjoy and be so very grateful for having it—for however long it lasts.

Than you for your lovely comment. I appreciate it.

Lynne said...

No, never forgotten.
So beautifully written.

KGMom said...

You obviously were true friends.
Again, sorry for your loss, but your poem does hint that Francis is in the life that comes after this one.

Val said...

I'm not sure I can add anything that hasn't already been said...

I am grateful that Frank was part of your life, and you in his. That kind of friend... that rare and one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million friend is probably the best treasure anyone can hope for...

Peace to you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

To remember, is to keep the journey alive and worthy.

Thank you—know you understand…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Oh, yes indeed. Frank's life was led in unwavering belief. He lived his beliefs, practiced what he preached, walked the talk.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Thank you, again. That you simply take the time to comment is more important than the words. And I do appreciate your time, your words, and your caring.

Hildred and Charles said...

'The past cannot be forgotten while memory lasts and love preserves' - these words by Janette Hospital have brought me comfort so many times as we have lost friends and family dear to our hearts and our lives.

So beautifully written, one can tell the promise is inscribed on your heart.

The Solitary Walker said...

What a wonderful and moving tribute to your old friend and your relationship with him!

As you say, I believe it is a rare thing, and a gift. I haven't experienced quite such a deep and lasting friendship myself; but I'm gratified beyond measure that it can exist.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hildred & Charles…

I'd never heard this quote before, but it is indeed true. And in the end, I think all of us would hope to be remembered in love.

Thank you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

When I first met Frank—he'd stopped by the house to examine and perhaps buy a carton or two of duplicate books I was looking to clear out—I had no inkling of where such a routine introduction would lead. But we just never know…

His life and values, his joy and laughter, and his deep, abiding friendship became one of the two or three greatest life gifts I've experienced. I don't expect a repeat.

giggles said...

Precious. Beautiful. (And what everybody else said, too...)

Carolyn H said...

Griz: you are indeed blessed to have had a friend like Frank. Such a friendship is a treasure.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Isn't it funny how some things in life which turn out to be the most precious were just given unexpectedly? Hindsight ought to make each of us consider the moment more often—there may be real treasures in the everyday exchange. If Frank never taught me a single thing else, he taught me to not take gifts for granted.

Thank you for writing.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

You are right. I was indeed blessed, and it was absolutely a treasure. And the best part is that while my old friend is no longer around, that magic of friendship remains, and always will.

Thank you.

giggles said...

He was a minister! (Have I told you my dad is? Retired, now....)

I can only imagine the talks you may have had with him about faith, hope, grace and the like.... Indeed, blessed you are!!!!!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

He was, indeed. A fishing, writing American Baptist minister. (A Baptist denomination I'd never heard of until we met, BTW.) And a preacher who didn't want to be called Reverend: "Frank is just fine, Preach if you insist…though I wish you wouldn't.) Highly educated, with a scary-fine intellect and memory, who refused to be "promoted" to a bigger church: "My calling is to work with small, struggling churches, get them back on their feet, then find some other place needing help and move on—and I take orders from God, not church headquarters."

He was a lifelong serious reader, and in addition to theological and Biblical works, had read hundreds of nature/outdoors/rural studies titles, loads of poetry, all the classics; he liked novels of all sorts, but especially period stuff and classic mystery/detective…and he wasn't above the odd Zane Grey.

He served as managing editor at several newspapers across the state while at the same time being a full-time pastor at a local church. Frank started his days before 5:00 a.m. and seldom finished before midnight or later. He turned down editorial promotions, too. He never owned a new car. Never owned a home until after retirement (a joke because he pastored at two successive churches, each for several years; and then went on to serve as Sunday pastor at a campground in Indiana, even after the Parkinson's had him on a motorized scooter.) And that late-in-life home purchase was for a tiny house, small lot, in a rural community. Frank and his wife furnished it with hand-me-down furniture. Yet no one was ever more grateful to become a homeowner, or took greater delight in his yard and neighbors.

On the other hand, Frank—being a Buckeye with northern inclinations—insisted that cornbread be made with white cornmeal only and that it should contain sugar! (Any southerner will tell you yellow meal is tastier and sugar an abomination.) He didn't like onions or spice (let alone peppers!) in chili, corn in vegetable soup, or chicken—fried, baked, or on the grill. But he would haven eaten fish—baked, fried, or grilled—three times a day, seven days a week; I have, I swear, been in buffet-type restaurants with him when he ate three plates of fish fillets, then went back and got a fourth instead of dessert.

He loved to fish more than any man I've ever met—and I've met (and been) some pretty fish-crazy anglers in my time. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone—even when they deserved it.

Might'a known you were a PK, BTW. :-)

JMS said...

Thank you for sharing your friendship with us. Your poetry took me back to the loss of my dad, who would have been a year younger than Frank. Springtime deaths don’t seem right, somehow.
It’s a perfect poem.

giggles said...

Yep...call me trouble with a capitol T!!

His obit in the local yocal didn't do him justice.... You certainly have!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

Death knows no season, of course…but spring does seem so filled with life that its loss goes against the grain.

Frank would have pointed to the Easter story, I'm sure, and life's triumph over death. Today I saw the first daffodils in bloom, a scattering of creamy gold and green among the lifeless brown of last autumn's leaves. So maybe this is a good season, after all.

I'm pleased you liked the poem.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Well, I see you found your way. Figured you would.

Naw, I didn't capture Frank either, but I gave it a shot. I just hoped to catch a highlight or two, nothing more.

Capitol T? Do I hear the sound of music?

giggles said...

Yup!

Rowan said...

A beautiful memorial for your old friend, I'm sure he will still keep you company on your fishing expeditions and wanderings in the local countryside. Those we have loved and lost leave us a legacy of laughter and happy memories to carry with us on our journey through life.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

Thank you for your lovely comments—and please know I couldn't agree more. I will carry Frank and our adventures together with me on every stream, every spring morning, every day for the rest of my natural life. Just as I carry a handful of others—father, mother—along because they abide forever in my heart.