Historical setting, 561 C.E., Gaul
“Yes, my son, this has been a very long journey for you.”
“A day it has been and into night and now it will be that back to day again.”
“If the donkey is tired you must be exhausted. Let’s stop by the river and rest. I’ll take coals from the foot warmer and fan a watch fire. I will keep watch while you sleep and we allow rest for the donkey also.”
Dear God, thank you for keeping this watch with me. Thank you for bringing me to know again this beloved son of mine. Amen.
So here I am with a fire and a river and my son whom I thought would never be mine to know as an adult — all great blessings of this night. The privilege of long life is only gifted through healing – changing, learning, growing in spirit and mind and often in loosing and grieving. What seems the constancy of life into age is really an endurance made up of many little healings day by day.
And yet my waking this night, with the visage of the abbot masked to shield him from an imagined fear of stench still riles my rath. The plague is horrific. Just the fear of plague sends us clinging to guesses at cures and blames for causes, trampling out any human instincts of compassion and transforming us into creatures who can only answer evil with greater evil. And he said it was I who was belligerent.
Of course, it may have actually been a kindness that he sent me out before my cell was sealed with the heavy fear of plague. Milan seems less afflicted by plague so everyone looks there for the cure. We have heard rumor from Milan that when plague visits a house the doors and windows of the house are bricked up with both the sick and well still inside. What had been a place for a family’s life with all of the daily encounters – meals, prayers, births, deaths, celebrations, joys, struggles – all sealed in, dark and stagnate with those who were nearest death suffering the least. Surely if my cell had been sealed I would have starved slowly and my son would be sent back alone this night.
He stirs. I cover him with the blanket. How many years have I longed for this?
(Continues Next Tuesday, November 18)