decoration at antioch
It's been 2 and 2/3 years since I've been to Antioch. Far too long. Last time was a New Years Eve service of singing for 2 hours. What a beautiful way to end the cycle of a year. It was a night I was blessed all night long. I have a feeling for Antioch I can't put words to or analyze. I love the place. I can't say what it is pulling me there, but it feels so comfortable, so at home, and I feel a brother/sister kinship with the people there, even though I only know a tenth of them. During the time with Jr I didn't want to leave him. And for a long period, this long, I've not wanted to go while the mention of his name still brought tears. Been thinking of going for several months, but this is the first time it took. This time I simply needed to go.
It was decoration. The cemetery was covered with new flowers, every tombstone. It's a big cemetery. Brilliantly colorful today. The picture above doesn't come close to what the eye sees. The light is all wrong with a sun that bleaches colors on film. Doesn't matter. I'm not going for National Geographic. I wanted a modest picture of the whole cemetery, the cars, the roads, the living world of the cemetery. I'm struck by how well the grass is kept among the tombstones. Relatives of a lot of people I know are in there, among them Jr's grandmother, his daddy's mama, widow of the Civil War soldier who died when she was 3 months pregnant. I think of old man Wylie as a man of constant sorrow. The last 6 months of his mother's pregnancy were in her grief, unfathomable grief. Wylie was named for his missing daddy. Man born in sorrow. A mountain man raised without a daddy is not particularly usual. I believe it explains why Jr never had a whipping growing up.
Wylie had already raised 2 kids and had grown grandkids when his wife died. A new wife, a new child he watched grow up and be married 5 years when his other boy 30 years older than Jr committed a terrible crime. Wylie's tombstone is a block of polished black marble. No names. No dates. Black marble. Below, in the foundation is the name Maxwell in raised letters. Nothing else. When I drive by it in Liberty cemetery, I take a quick glance to pay my respects to someone I'd never met, but learned much of his life and to respect the man he was. Man of Constant Sorrow is pretty much the American male anthem. Wiley had sorrow in spades, as did his boy Jr. I can't even imagine the depth of either one of their sorrows, the kind that hit you straight in the heart like a knife and you can't die, but want to so bad it makes you want to take a long walk on a country road on a moonless night. Give the lost beloved in memory some time on the movie screen of the mind without distraction.
Walking from the car to the meeting house this morning I was overcome by the spirit. Eyes welled up with tears before even shaking the first hand. Seeing the people gathered on the porch talking, the people walking about in the cemetery opened my heart. It's the spirit among the people there that I feel strongly in among them. It's a beautiful, living spirit. It's not a locked down spirit bent on keeping an eye on everybody's sins. It's a spirit of acceptance. Not just for me, but for every individual in the place. People who praise and pray together. I've never felt the first sign of stuffiness in any of the people. Everybody is individual and respected as such. I see the people shaking hands arriving, and note the feeling between everyone I see shaking hands is the same I receive when I shake with anyone. I feel at home sitting among them, singing, listening to the preaching among them.
The songs have deep, intense meaning, each one a beautiful sermon. The singing is slow, slow, slow, so slow it's one syllable at a time. Gives you time to consider the meaning of what your voice is singing. After a song, I tend to read some lines in another song on the opposite page. Every song I marvel at how beautifully it tells what it has to say. I happened to glance up and noticed a lot of people were doing as I was, reading the next song in the book until the next one to sing starts. The men in this church are Bible scholars. I do mean scholars. So are women. They know their Bibles. They're at home in their Bibles. They read for understanding. Go to church for understanding too. The preaching this morning was worth the drive there to hear. He spoke of the burial and resurrection like you are there seeing it. Something I'd forgotten struck me when he said the burial garment and the face cloth were folded and placed carefully. He went from there to the cloud that received him, the cloud of the saints already ascended. The preaching amounted to explaining the the spiritual meaning of the burial and resurrection. It wasn't like Easter Sunday drama. He was just telling what the scripture had to say. I received some insight I was happy to be there to receive.
The spirit in the place lifted my spirit before I entered the door. Inside the door, the spirit was everywhere. We who were there moved in the spirit the way fish swim in water, so totally surrounded by the spirit, buoyed on the ocean of love. My mind was clear, no thoughts other than the ongoing present moment, fully present. It was a happy time. I learned later in the Food Lion parking lot that the first preacher, Curtis Hash, was indeed the brother of Gene Hash, a guitar playing gospel singer in Whitehead. He plays guitar with the Taylor Family in Whitehead.It started when I noted Curtis Hash has to be Gene Hash's brother. He was. I saw Dorothy Wyatt came to the church with Cecil in his wheelchair. I know them at the BROC meetings. Dorothy is Agnes Joines's aunt. Something like that. Both Esteps. During handshake time at the end of the service I hugged Dorothy. My respect for Dorothy as a woman, as a soul, is big as respect gets. She's of that mountain kind of people I can't help but respect. The better I know them, the more I respect them. It's like that with Dorothy. We've known each other maybe 4 or 6 years. We sit across the table from each other every month.Cecil there too. Dorothy takes care of him like a mother with her baby.
Since I made the decision to withdraw from town dealings and spend more time with my friends, the people I truly enjoy living among, I see people I have a mutual caring with. I found when Jr went on that all his friends and relatives became my friends. Everyone in Whitehead became my friend. There are so many people in my life now I appreciate from the deepest depth of the heart. Jr wasn't the only one around worthy, in my way of seeing, of a great deal of respect. Shaking hands with everyone at the end of the meeting, I saw people I knew on sight were worthy of a great deal of respect. When the preacher made the call for anyone wanting to join the church to step forward, I felt a longing to, but held myself back, saying think about it awhile. There's no rush.I'm welcome to go there as often as I want to. Right now my only hesitation is I don't want to bind myself to other people's expectations. I don't want to be expected to be there every time. I feel so good among those people I might want to be there every time. Whatever. Today's concern is that I've been in the spirit all day long. Not a dramatic kind of being in the spirit like seeing visions, but an uplifted feeling, a lightness of spirit. Happy. No problems. The feeling was the same as I feel here in the home where I live.