My sister was here for a good long visit this summer. Part of the visit was to give her space to sort through some serious life-stuff and part of the visit was to be with me. And it could be said that our relationship is life-stuff but we’re on the up-side of stuff.
My sister identifies herself as born-again Christian, socially conservative, hippy-Mom and former physical therapist. While she was here she showed me a book that she was re-reading, Christy by Catharine Marshall. I remembered the book around the house when we were much younger but I didn’t know that it was a book that gave shape and words to her own faith.
The following poem is the price of writing that helped shape my own faith. It is not one of the world’s great poems but to an eleven year old who was in love with the obvious music of older poems, it had a great impact for it was an echo from the little Catholic church we were raised in: “do unto others”. . .”faith without works”. . .”love thy neighbor”.
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?” —The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
I know now this Abou is probably Arabic, and/or Muslim. I rather like that in fact. Years after that poem was just a part of my mind, I worked for a couple of years in a Jewish deli where I came to know the holidays and customs of that faith. (I also picked up a bit of Yiddish.) Time in anonymous meetings lifted me out of dogma and into a self-defined faith.
What we have together as sisters is a faith in each other and a deep understanding of who we once were, and where we are going. Perhaps this is a by-product of being in our 50’s but I know it’s more for we have had very hard times. We’ve gone long time without speaking and when we did it was difficult. Today, we laugh and dance and sip wine watching food shows. ;lkio