Today is June 1st, the day after Pentecost.
It’s the first day of Ordinary Time, that vast stretch of nothing from Pentecost to Advent.
From late Fall to early Summer, we prepare for (and celebrate) the three great Christian holidays: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
Six months of stirring dramas, parties, feasts, fasting, graduations, and other special things.
Then, Ordinary Time.
Boring. Boring. Boriiiiiing.
The wasteland of the church year, the time when no one has enough creativity to make anything special.
That’s what I thought until June 1st, 2004.Perhaps my opinion of Ordinary Time changed the moment Byron Joyner ordered the steak (and I ordered the salmon) that we would never eat.It was a pleasant enough day, just before the hellish Sonoran summer erupts to bake the streets of Phoenix and all those who dwell therein.
I sipped on my coffee, ate my salad, and chatted with Byron.When the cell phone rang, I ignored it. I hate it when people keep answering their cell phone when they are supposed to be visiting with me. It makes me feel as though people who are not present are more important than the ones who are. However, this ring seemed different somehow. I apologized and took the call.
“This is Mrs. (Someone whose name I cannot recall) at the Salvation Army. I work with your wife in drug rehab. She has just collapsed. The ambulance is taking her to St. Joseph’s.”
I thanked her and put my phone away.“It was the Salvation Army,” I explained to Byron. “Trish has collapsed. She’s going to the hospital.”I ate a bit of my salad and waited for him to continue.It took me a few seconds to notice the look on his face. It’s the look people give you when you are doing something completely weird and inappropriate.
“Aren’t you going?” He asked.“I guess I should,” I replied.
“Tell the waitress that I will not be eating the salmon.” I walked to my car. I drove to St. Joe’s. I called Debby Lefebvre and asked her to cancel my appointments. I arrived. I walked into the hospital with that professional clergy stride that one develops over the many years of dealing with tragedy and uncertainty.
Calamity doesn’t come like in the movies. When calamity knocks, most of us keep walking for as long as we can as though nothing has happened. Its like the cartoon characters who step over the cliff and keep walking for several steps before they realize that the ground has given way.
Trish seemed nauseated and a bit pale. She asked me to fill out her hospital forms. John and Sybil Dyson came by for a moment. They prayed and left. I kept trying to figure out what was wrong.
Then Trish stopped breathing. We would not speak another word for a month. Her shades went down. No one would know what was happening inside her for many weeks. It would be months before our conversations made much sense, even after she began to talk.
Loss? Terror? The sound of something ripping up the tapestry of our lives? What words or metaphor can carry the load of the unspeakable?
A brain aneurism is a neurological tornado.
It destroys this and leaves that. It removes a roof and leaves a little boy’s bicycle propped up against his house, untouched.When Advent would come again, we would be in another city. Our lives – and the lives of many others – would be altered forever.
The tornado carried us away and plopped us down into another life. Ordinary Time, 2004 because the season when Trish learned how to do ordinary things again: walk, talk, think, and breathe on her own.
Each ordinary thing she recovered became suddenly extraordinary. If one cannot breathe on his own, an ordinary breath becomes infinitely valuable. We cried the day she drank water, as though we had won a lottery and could now put our troubles behind us.
She would not learn to fix her hair again for three years. Her hands had simply lost the ability to speak to one another. Each hand insisted on doing things the way it wanted, without any sense of obligation to the other.
This morning, Trish played the piano with both hands and filled our house with the sound of five years of recovery.
Today is June 1st, 2009.It’s ordinary time.The birds in the oaks around our house are having some sort of pow-wow in a language I cannot understand.
It’s a bit windy.The green fields make me sneeze.The sun kisses my face.
Yesterday was Pentecost. I thought at times that the people in our church might be caught up in a fiery chariot, like Elijah the Tishbite. We danced. We wept. We listened to sermons that touched the deepest parts of our soul. We ate bread and drank wine from God’s Table. It was all glorious.
But today is Ordinary Time. It’s the season to put into practice all we have learned. It is a time to walk through life without drama or adrenaline. It is time to act in those small ways, day after day, that slowly, undramatically and unperceptively makes saints of us.Yesterday was red, alive with tongues of fire and mighty rushing winds. Today is green, with echoes of mercy and whispers of love.It is an ordinary day, in Ordinary Time and all is well.
Thanks be to God!