Friday, January 02, 2015

A Lighter Highway

The retirement is done, the goodbye parties and holiday feasts are now memories. His books now sit in a pasteboard box on the deacon’s bench in my living room waiting to find their place on my shelves. We had a wonderful time talking over each one as it went into the box, virtually all of them about religion, spirituality and politics. It was an hour that reflected our last 25 years of friendship.

In my yard are the potted plants that will not survive the cold of Missouri and the plants dug up from the yard itself waiting to be planted in my jungle. They will become the sacraments of our friendship, the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of a loving relationship once nearby and constant,  soon to be distant and occasional.

Tomorrow about noon, my friends will leave on the first leg of the journey into the next phase of their lives together, the pods containing their worldly goods following shortly behind. My friend of 25 years heads for a new life in a strange place with all the time in the world to find a new life, retirement arriving just days ago. 

His husband heads for a new life in academia, a newly minted Ph.D. and currently a permanent instructor as myself, hoping to hear good news from the 50 applications for tenure track positions he has put out across the country. Their two Vizlas, my bosom buddies whom I have spoiled miserably with food from more than one holiday banquet table, accompany them, the humid warmth of Florida soon to give way to the extreme heat and cold of the heartland.

My heart is broken this night. I feel a good chunk of my soul has been ripped loose and is being spirited away. And yet, I know that the wheel of life turns, nothing is forever, letting go is required of everything and everyone in our lives and, at the end, of our very lives themselves. Our ongoing task is learning how to let go.

I know that intellectually and perhaps even existentially. And yet, tonight, all I feel is pain.  

“Are you OK,” I asked him tonight as he packed the last remaining boxes in the chaos of their once vibrant home. “Not at all,” he replied. And my observation is that he is being candid about that. At one point he said, “I feel like Janis Joplin: ‘Take it!  Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!  Oh, oh, break it!  Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Oh, oh, have a!  Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, You know you got it if it makes you feel good’”

Much as I admired Joplin, that is not the song that expresses my broken heart this night. In the early 1970s I went to see a foreign film, Friends, which featured the music of the then-new musician Elton John. I loved the film, the artwork and the music. I even reproduced the album cover for a poster on my wall in my undergraduate dorm. In particular, I always felt the title song, Friends, spoke to my understanding of the world, the deep human need for friends and the duty to express my gratitude to those who had made my way through life “a lighter highway.”

Last Stop

I have sent the link below and the lyrics to my friends with the instructions “Don’t read this until you are on your way.” I already dread their last stop by our home tomorrow to leave the keys to their now abandoned house and I pray to keep some level of composure as I watch my friends drive away to a new life.

At the conclusion of The Wizard of Oz, the tin man (whom I played once in a theatrical production in my younger days) reports “Now I know I have a heart because it’s breaking.” This eve of the departure of my dear friends, I think I know what he means. And yet, it is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem in which I find solace this night: “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

No doubt I will know this one day.  

To my friends, I send you forth with this song. Godspeed, my dear ones.  No matter how far you might roam, never forget your friends here in Florida and know that you are fondly remembered and deeply loved.

I hope the day will be a lighter highway
For friends are found on every road
Can ever think of any better way
For the lost and weary travelers to go?

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then every thing's all right

It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then every thing's all right

I pray my tears will relent long enough for me to post this.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Asst. Lecturer: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Osceola Campus, Kissimmee

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harry, Great tribute to friendship. Hope the heaviness in your heart passes quickly. Agape, Mike