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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

SERVING THE MASTER

from waterfall road
 
On the first, I was planning to visit Jr Maxwell's grave with his second cousin, Melia, to remember him at his gravesite on the anniversary of his passing. Last  year our timing got messed up and we went separately on different days. This year we just never connected. I thought about going, taking an umbrella for the rain, and it came to me, "let the dead bury the dead." Why keep this sentiment going year after year? The spirit has gone out of us for it. That's ok. We did it I think four years, while the spirit was with us. I see no reason to make a ritual of it. To force it from here on will be to ritualize it. I'll stop by the cemetery one day spontaneously and say hi. That would have spirit in it. Jr was a bluegrass banjo picker on weekends with his band The Green Mountain Boys, and during the week a welder, tractor mechanic, bulldozer operator, sawmill operator, buyer and seller of cattle. In 1956 he bought a 56 Ford. He said it was the fastest car in the county. He didn't get that  statistic from the owner's manual. He beat the then fastest car in the county in a night race.
 
 
from waterfall road
 
Jr was a wildman. I respected in Jr that he allowed his inner wildman to act out. He was a wildman on a banjo. He made music first and honored the notes. His fiddler's convention winning song was Home Sweet Home. He could twist the strings on his banjo like Earl Scruggs and the crowds loved it. He was a prankster and a jokester. When you were around Jr,  you were laughing. He was drawn to people who made him laugh and he liked to make the people around him laugh. His banjo picking was his contribution to making the world a better place. He was a philosopher who said things like, "I been through it and come out the other end." He was light-hearted and had probably suffered more than anyone I've ever known in the course of his lifetime. He chose for this lifetime the fast lane in spiritual growth, suffering. He was delivered five blows from out of the blue that had stopping power, each one would have brought a rhino to its knees. He was also the only man I'd ever known I would call wise without hesitation. He called himself a fool, made a better case for himself a fool than I could for him wise. It's not like we talked about it. He just saw himself a fool in how he handled his life. I thought of him the wise fool. How could a wise man be anything but a fool in this world?
 
waterfall road
 
Whitehead mourned the passing of Jr Maxwell. The funeral had maybe twenty people. Most of his friends were dead. He was 87. Jr sawmilled the wood in my barn, I'm guessing in the late 1930s when he was in his late teens sawmilling for John Richardson at the foot of the mountain, Air Bellows Mountain. Tom cut the tree trunks, used the branches for firewood, and hauled the logs down the old backside of Waterfall Road in a wagon drawn by big work horses. Jr sawed the logs into boards and Tom hauled them back up the mountain and built himself a barn. It is one of the last standing barns in the county. I've taken care of it. Keeping  donkey hay in it will extend its life. Jr told me what kind of wood was in it. The barn was built to last. A couple of my cats in the past sunbathed on the tin roof. Both the men involved in putting up the barn have told me their entire life stories over a period of several years apiece. Both of them men I respected as what I call true human beings. I respected their character. At Tom's funeral I lost it. Two rows of people stood up in front of where I was sitting and sang, all of them people I knew, and some I went to church with. They sang three songs Tom had requested. I forget the first two, but the last was Amazing Grace, the hymns sung the old-timey slow hillbilly style, one syllable at a time, sometimes making two syllables of one.
 
from waterfall road
 
It was more than I could maintain composure under. I wept a puddle of tears on the floor between my shoes. I did that once before at a foot-washing meeting while Millard Pruitt, Tom's brother, was in the spirit preaching. He wasn't hell fire and fear. Millard only preached love. The whole place was in tears. Millard could light you up with the spirit. I'd already mourned Jr before he left the body, taking care of him going into his dementia and fully in it. He wanted to die at home and I wanted to give him that, a man I felt was truly an honorable human being in the highest sense. I mythologized my role in my mind as serving the Master. I recalled something to the effect of, what you do for the least of these you do for me, something like that. I literally believe Tom and Jr were given to me by the Master for teachers, each one in the right time. I served Jr as if he were Meher Baba or Jesus Christ, Krishna, the Dalai Lama. In my case, Meher Baba. The nurses from Hospice were repeatedly amazed at the care I was giving Jr, allowing him to make his own decisions even when he was bedfast. I never said it, because I didn't want to explain it, that in actuality, I am serving the Master, himself, in person. I knew it was Jr, but that is still how I felt about it. I attended to him with the same degree of respect. This was my opportunity to serve the Master in person. He left the body sleeping comfortably in his own bed. 
 
waterfall road
 
 
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