Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Missing Body

I've been thinking about how much we want to see the body, the hands, the feet, and the wound in the side - how Thomas wasn't there when the Christ appeared - how he needed to see the body, to put his fingers there in the wound. It is it all done or will it continue?

When my grandmother died, six days short of 100, she was cremated the day after she died. That was two days before I could arrive to see the hip surgery scar, the beautiful hands that patted my hands, the body that had once offered me the deepest safety, the widest comfort one human being could give a teenage body. I swam in the safety, that love.

I longed, and still do, to say goodbye to those calves that look like mine, the long soft ear lobes to which she crookedly clipped ear rings, the green-brown eyes which I doused for the river of love. I was always searching there, into those eyes.

Where is the body? I need to know if her body still emits love for me.

Now her son, my mother's brother has died. My mom is the last one of that family who ever saw the Zambezi River, the cashew trees in the mission yard, who wore a child’s pith helmet instead of a bonnet. I'm going on Sunday and Monday to help lay his ashes into the earth, the former body of Arthur Leon Arksey. The body left behind is the body of music his children, my cousins will play. Music, his wife, his children, these are what he loved - plus cleaning and organizing.

I'm thinking about another human, Osama bin Laden, whose body we need to see to know if it is over or not. Can you show us some pictures, please? Will his mom and dad, will his children pine for a body? Will they want to see the wound? Will DNA in a jar do?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Man is Dead

Last night, at midnight, on the radio, I heard my President Obama say that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

I was so surprisingly instantly relieved this man was dead, this one man, this mother's son. In what thrall we've been to him, a man with two arms and two legs and one beating heart. I, too wanted to join the college students that WBUR was reporting were gathering to cheer and sing, "God Bless America."

I was not one who sang "God Bless America" back when the neo-cons whupped up a war in Iraq. I went to NYC with my beloved, to join that day of 22 degree February protest. I wore layers upon layers to protect myself from the cold and possible police batons.

I was not one who put an American flag on my porch. Where did those flags come from so quickly on September 12, 2001? I bought a flag with the picture of the green and blue earth on it, and that flag flew from our front porch.

Now today, the man upon whom we pinned our fabulous worry, our terror of terrorism, our ripe racist resentment is dead. I didn't sing American the Beautiful, I didn't fly the flag, but I am so relieved he is gone.

(I am old enough to have seen it a few times, what I think will happen next - all the evil we attributed to him, will soon be pinned on another mother's son or daughter.)

This morning, I found myself mourning for him, for Osama bin Laden, and for his family who disowned him, for his country who made him an un-citizen. I'm not forgetting the havoc he and his caused, the lives he took by finance and leadership and sponsorship. I can't and don't discount the evil of him, or surely, hopefully, the smaller evil of me.

I know only the barest details of the evil my own nation has caused for want of oil, territory, and global influence.

But this morning, I have worked hard, staying quiet so God's work could happen in me. I want to remember that Osama Bin Laden is a man with 10 fingers and toes and a long beard, a human different from me, but human like me. I pray for the repose of his soul, because I need to do this - to become the human that God is calling me to be.

O God, grant peace to the world. O God, grant peace to our nation. O God, grant peace to my congregation and to me. O God, if you are the same God as Allah, grant peace to soul of Osama bin Laden.

I pray that our cheers of relief and our self-righteousness not drown out the voices of poor, the bereft, and the voices of every grieving mother and father. Amen.