Lazy RiverI asked you to teach me about dying, sitting knee to knee on a flowered sofa and a wheelchair in the mild afternoon.  You took me round about.

Your grandparents farmed hand to mouth in the barren backcountry of Alabama.  I knew this, but listened.  Your parents moved to the city, with a bold zeal for education that met the harsh setbacks of the Depression; they eked out their best for their only son.  It was you who finally graduated a university, the first in the family, and earned a doctorate, and the world began to open; how wide the banks of the river grew.  And then I came along, and my brother, entering schools you never dreamed of, traveling worlds, living in houses our farm folks would not have bothered to imagine.

You didn’t speak of dying, but of the force of living; and wondered about why we are so cautious to stake out new ground for ourselves.  From your placement now, where the river runs into the sea, you seemed to be saying:  flow!  Don’t look back to the farm for permission to swell with currents deep and demanding – but look to what moves through me now, larger than my imagining.  You took your daughter’s question and spun it into a story of family and fate, and gave it back.  Here is your thread:  weave your own life as luminous as you dare.  The colors passing through you are alive and want to be chosen.  Choose, then, what is yours, if not mine, and make of it a cloth of wonder.

I, unsuspecting that afternoon, received the grail every daughter seeks from her father:  Go, freely and with joy, to love and serve your life; for I have found you worthy of it. Fresh waters came from below as from an unknown spring; life began to rise, to swell the banks; to flood the plain, taking back the red clay that I was born to, twisting toward the next bend I cannot see around.  Your blessing as vigorous as ever:  live well, live all you have been given; and well you will die.

That is all I need to know, for now.


photo by Peter Griffin:  <a href=”http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=1107

~ by Susan on 04/15/2010.

4 Responses to “a.life.swelling.”

  1. A beautiful honoring of your heritage and the values of those who have gone before you. What a gift Bill has given to you.

  2. Each post is more luminous than the last. So, so beautiful and heartbreaking and encouraging — all together.

  3. Characteristically rich, deep, and thought-provoking. He has such a gift for answering in ways that stay with you for a long time, and sometimes become clear many years later, after you’ve experienced more of life. How blessed are we who have known him, learned from him, and loved him.

  4. Susan, I happened across this site researching classmates. Your serenity and faith are inspirational to me. You and your family will be in my prayers.

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