She was Clementine and he was Hardy, of at least I think that was his name. I heard all sorts of variations, and to this day I am not sure what it actually was. That was no problem, though, because I called him Pop, which was what he told me to call him. Clementine (Mum) was about 76 years of age when I met her and Pop was 98, almost 99. She was his second wife, and the story of his proposal, (which I heard from someone else), was absolutely dear. It was obvious that they were very much in love. I could tell by how they looked at each other. But I have to be honest; it was Pop who stole my heart. He was the son of a freed slave and he told me more stories about what that was like than any history book ever could. But what Pop taught me the most about was God. I fell in love with Pop because he was in love with God. And oh, his love showed.
Pop had no anger or rancor about having grown up in a world hostile to people of color. It simply was the way it was. He told me about working for a train company, his love of baseball, (something he and I shared), but mostly he talked about his faith. He could not tell a story without God being part of it. I think that is because God was central to the life Pop lived. We talked about Scripture sometimes. But the best moments were when Pop prayed with me. I could hardly say a word because to hear him pray was like being with the angels. To this day, I have never heard anyone pray the 23rd Psalm such as I experienced when he prayed it.
When the summer ended, the goodbye was tough, but I knew it was not goodbye forever. I knew Pop and I were already linked because he had entered into my heart. The last day I was there, he prayed not just with me, but for me. Pop blessed me, though that is not what he said. But in looking back, it was indeed a blessing of the most sublime kind. First he prayed the 23rd Psalm, and then he prayed in his own words, though what he said I will not share here because he paid me the highest compliment I have ever received in this life and that is between Pop, God, and me.
This may seem like a different type of entry than I usually post. I often write about saints, so this really is not all that different. But the lesson I hope to share is that we should fall in love a lot in this life. We should fall in love with many people, (and of course, I am not referring to romantic love.) In order to fall in love with people we meet, we first must fall in love with God. I say this because it is God who is reflected in the faces and in the hearts of others. God is love, so when we are totally taken by the beauty we experience in other people, it is God who is residing in the midst of that. Even when it is totally unarticulated and the situations we are in are not necessarily in a religious context, it is about God because it is about love. We cannot compartmentalize our spiritual lives to a few activities, or a few moments, or even a few hours of a day. Our entire day, our entire life is a religious, spiritual experience because God is in every moment of it.
May you fall in love with the angels you entertain unaware! May we find the Lord in the midst of relationships! May we invite the Lord to be in the center of the relationships that are challenging to us, and which are outside our comfort zone! May we allow the Lord to open our minds and hearts with His healing love which unites and never divides! And may we find the stranger in our midst and make that one feel at home, just as we will all be at home in Heaven some day! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus where all are friends and all are at home! Peace!
(Look for "part 2" of this entry on Wednesday!)
The photos are all mine, taken with 35mm film. (Remember that?) All were taken in the summer of 1983, except the third photo.
The first picture is at the Jesuit Seminary, St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. The second picture is of my beloved Clementine and Hardy, Mum and Pop.
The third picture was taken in the summer of 1988. This was the last time I ever saw either of them.
The last picture is of the St. Charles Parish Cemetery where I am sure they are both resting.