So, I went to church today. I'm always late to church.
I mean, I'm always late to church. Not just a little late, sometimes the sermon has started. I can count on one hand how many times I have been to church for the processional and the opening hymn. It's sort of a running joke among my fellow parishioners. One day, Father Susan is going to lock the doors and make me knock to get inside the cross-shaped sanctuary. People tell me they know they are really late if they come in and see me. I've tried, I really have tried, to get to church on time. I figure I'm going to be the one waiting outside the gates of heaven. God will be whispering to St. Peter, "If he would have only been on time, but now we'll make him wait. He has an eternity after all."
Last night, I watched The Green Mile last night on a movie channel. Twice. Without being a spoiler, one of the curses of the miracles that happen in the movie is those touched by the miracle have extra-ordiarily long lives. Here's the quote from old Paul Edgecomb:
Old Paul Edgecomb: I think Mr. Jingles happened by accident. I think when we electrocuted Del, and it all went so badly... well, John can feel that you know... and I think a part of... whatever magic was inside of him just lept through my tiny friend here. As for me, John had to give me a part of himself; a gift the way he saw it, so that I could see for myself what Wild Billy had done. When John did that; when he took my hand, a part of the power that worked through him spilled into me.
Elaine Connelly: He... what? He infected you with life?
Old Paul Edgecomb: That's as good a word as any. He infected us both, didn't he, Mr. Jingles? With life. I'm a hundred and eight years old, Elaine. I was forty-four the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile. You mustn't blame John. He couldn't help what happened to him... he was just a force of nature. Oh I've lived to see some amazing things Elly. Another century come to past, but I've... I've had to see my friends and loved ones die off through the years... Hal and Melinda... Brutus Howell... my wife... my boy. And you Elaine... you'll die too, and my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. It's my attonement you see; it's my punishment, for letting John Coffey ride the lightning; for killing a miracle of God. You'll be gone like all the others. I'll have to stay. Oh, I'll die eventually, that I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality, but I will wished for death... long before death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already.
I had seen the movie before, but I didn't remember those lines. The Green Mile is a wonderful movie, but the line really stood out to me this time.
In this last year, three friends and a friend's father who I had a unique bond with passed away. Mike, who I met through cycling; Sharon, who I met through cycling as well but shared a special bond which involved Jack Daniel's; recently, Susie Edwards, a tv reporter I had known for years and Jon Moore, a friend's father who helped me regain my bearings after being hit on the head with a 2x4 - all died in the past year.
It just got me thinking about a long life. I don't think I'd want to be the last one standing. (Now, watch, I'll get hit by a bus tomorrow.) But it also got me thinking about living in the moment, or seizing the day, or living in the now. I know you can't live your entire life in the moment, but I do want to enjoy the blessings of my life because, well, you just never know.
But, back to my tardy church attendance, at the benediction Father Susan always closes the service with these words:
"Keep the faith. Live in hope. Love one another."
It just resonated with me today, like a simple Truth. It gave me comfort. So, I am going to try and use those words to guide me in this New Year. Maybe I won't lose as many friends and family this year? I don't know, but I have to let them go and keep living. I have to keep the faith, live in hope, and love those around me. That's all I can do.