Conditions

01/10/2016

 

…value dignity in the face of battering conditions.” Beth Kephart

reqieum2The ritual of faith in my childhood taught me to look at death. Directly. Unflinchingly. At seven years of age, I sang in our school’s children’s choir for every funeral. Hidden away in the great ceiling, a small loft for even smaller children.The great organ dwarfing our statures. Both beloved and severe, the choir mistress stands erect, in black, baton in hand. Cold eyes piercing through the young’s urge to giggle – to fend off sorrow. A Gregorian chant of “Requiem aeternam”  begins. We are consumed by solemnity. Only our voices echoing within the high walls to greet the slow procession for the dead. The bowed heads covered in black lace. The straight backs of men in dark suits, like soldiers. Stepping carefully to muffle the clipped sounds of their wingtips against the hard tiled floors echoing against the monophonic repetition. The mantra of children – of innocence –  to greet death. To relieve the sorrowful burdens from the shoulders of the unknown. Of the adults.

An initiation for the loss in my future.  So many deaths, it seems, that every one is personal. The prayers rise up for love incarnate – my mother, my father, my sister-in-law, my childhood friend to those splashed across the newspapers. The drown Syrian child on Greece’s rocky coast, the African-American father lying dead on the street in Charleston, the babes and their teachers in Newton, the street carnage of Paris’s les jeunesses… on and on.

Far from my childhood in months and years, the “Requiem aeternam” resonates. Now, it is my head bowed, my back that is straight. Faith remains the constant.


This post is dedicated to the choristers, past and present, of St. Alban’s School for Boys, where their voices fill me with longing.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: