A.Longitude.(of) Strength.

Is it true?  Is it fair?  Will it build friendship and good will?  Will it benefit all?

The Four Way Test,
Rotary International

Bending over his enormous plank of a desk, now heightened five inches to accommodate his power wheelchair, my father presses his pen in quiet concentration – slow, deliberate marks fill the page.  It takes an hour for him to inscribe a book he wrote six years ago, this copy going to a library for his fellow Rotarians.  It is a small volume reflecting on the Four Way Test, a moral compass used by his colleagues all over the world.  When I googled the book, my screen first beamed news from Madras, where the Rotarians had been so moved by his writing, they had received permission to translate and publish it in India.  I had no idea.

I decided to read it myself, differently now.  Is it true? This slowly changing life of his – words crumbling in his mouth, hands crawling across the page, legs out like a light.  Yes, the bare truth of it is hard to miss.

Has it built friendship, goodwill? Oh, friends and former foes alike line up to sit with him in the light of life while it lasts.  Love thrives in the vulnerable places.  And yes, it has been beneficent, in the way of blessing, to many who witness in him what it means to die as you have lived, and in faith.

But, is it fair? This one stops me.

I can say, no, life never promised to be fair.  But he would go further – I have heard him do so lately.  He said to me that, of course, we all must die, that it is natural, that knowing so invigorates him with life.  And for his slow diminishment, he has no self-pity.  Except for a few, death is usually difficult for the body to bear, he said: we can expect that.  And that while he yet lives, he swims in an ocean of gratitude, buoyed by all who hold  him in love,  bearing witness to the abundance of what he has been given.  His words.  In the final calculation, he would say:  yes, life has been more than fair.

It’s all in how you hold the compass, I guess.  Calculating the longitude of truth, the latitude of fairness, the wide circle of friendship and global community.  And above all, it’s about pointing to that magnetic north, is it not?  To that one polestar beyond life and death around which all other circumstances find their bearing.  I want to remember that.

When the official Rotarian received the book for their library, he sat with my father to read his inscription aloud.  The elder gives this book every week to every speaker that comes through town.  But now, he couldn’t make out these last few words – my father’s careful hand is too shaky yet.  He stumbled over the lines.  No matter, my father quietly brushed it off.  We will have it typed and pasted. I’ll make my mark at the end.

And so he has.  Even on my most difficult days, I want to quietly swim in this much gratitude.  I want to laugh with this much joy.

~ by Susan on 11/15/2010.

9 Responses to “A.Longitude.(of) Strength.”

  1. Absolutely beautiful, Susan! Such an uplifting spirit… Thank you for sharing your father, a wondrous beacon of light, with me/us. His photo says it all. You are incredibly blessed to have him.

    • Tate, so glad you’re out there, and looking in on this blog. thanks for your comments . . . wonderful.

  2. Susan, I am grateful to you for sharing this 4-way test. Your posts and your father’s wisdom continue to inspire me.

    • oh thank you, Joan. It means a lot that you are still out there, and checking in on this. I appreciate it. Susan

  3. That smile….is true, and lovely, and benefits all. He’s making his mark at the end, and you are honoring it so beautifully. I want to find a copy of the book. Thank you for continually uplifting me and the blog.

  4. My heart skipped a beat when I opened your blog this morning and saw a picture of that beautiful smile. I can hear his laughter. In the years I had the privilege to work with your father at Samford, he taught me so many things. And he teaches me yet, through your words. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Susan,
    Your dad was my New Testment professor at Southern Seminary in the early 60’s. Seeing evidence that his wisdom and grace have surpassed even his scholarship touches me in ways that I cannot describe. Thank you for letting his vulnerability help me cope with my own mortality.

    • Thank you, Clay, for offering these words and remembering my father after many years. Indeed, it has been amazing for me to watch as my father’s intellect, still robust and keen, bow down to the place of the heart, where he now resides. I appreciate your following this way with us.

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