Stay Warm

It is bitter in our city today. Cold comes up from the sidewalks, slaps our faces at building edges, and grabs us by the jaws when we turn corners. We’re bundled up, going mostly from the car to the door, to some door. We are warmer than most people in the bitter cold world. At least as warm as possible.

I heard something that I want to plug on the blog as a reminder to myself, as a reminder to you, son. I was at my desk at the hospital and I overheard part of a colleague’s phone conversation. He was ending a message he was leaving. He said something like, “Okay, stay warm.”

His words stuck with me. I took a deep breath, held the tender love in his voice, and relished it. It was intimate, soft, and interesting, especially given the person I was listening to. He isn’t the warmest man upon first impression. And I immediately wanted to pass on his words and the emotion underneath them.

You haven’t been the most wonderful son these weeks. In fact, you’ve been exploding with more tantrums in three weeks than has possessed you in three years. You’ve been out of character. And yet, I’ve been reminding myself that “This is my son, too.” I’ve been saying to myself and to others that “The boy does this too. This is him.”

I would love for you to be that other kid. The kid I know and not the one you keep presenting to your mother and to the public when I’m not around. I’m turning over the matter in my head, grabbing at the minds of friends for their thoughts about matters. I’m thinking things through in terms of emotional process, differentiation, family dynamics, and mostly because I’m reading Generation to Generation which makes me think longer and wider about individual problems.

And then comes those words, that greeting, that wish. Stay warm. In some ways, it’s a reminder to me because it captures a version of the Christian life. At the end of the hour, at the close of the day, I want to be the man, the father, the husband, who stayed warm. The environment is frigid, numbingly cold, sharp and painful even. But I want to stay warm.

And in some ways it is my only wish for you. So this is what I want. I want you to stay warm. Have your tantrums but be warm about it. Have your space to fully feel but stay warm about it. Don’t hurt your mother because you can have a whole existence that is fully Bryce but that doesn’t impose upon her. Don’t hurt your friends because their young enough to leave your nutty beautiful self and you’ll wake me up one day and try to borrow some of mine and, of course, I will tell you to go somewhere and talk as you do about how long it took me to cherish those friends I fully intend to keep and not share.

In short, the world is cold and your feelings may be sharp and windy and may causes internal scratches. But get inside some place and cultivate a warmth that keeps your interiority ablaze. You have what you need to be fully present to the pain of life and the source of life. You can be warm.

You can stay warm.

“Grief” by Stephen Dobyns

Trying to remember you

is like carrying water

in my hands a long distance

across sand. Somewhere

people are waiting.

They have drunk nothing for days.

 

Your name was the food I lived on;

now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.

To say your name was to be surrounded

by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,

I touch glass and barbed wire.

Your name was the thread connecting my life;

now I am fragments on a tailor’s floor.

 

I was dancing when I

learned of your death; may

my feet be severed from my body.

 

(Posted in remembrance of our father, Mardell Culley, Sr. on the second anniversary of his death)

“We Must Act”

If racism manifests itself as violence, we cannot be content simply to dialogue or just to talk over the negative consequences of prejudice. We cannot dismantle racism by fostering cross-cultural awareness. We must find the spiritual courage to speak truth to power, to take a public stand against the institutional evils of oppression. We must not engage in conversation, we must act; we must actively, as Martin Luther King, Jr., put it, strive toward freedom. We must live our truths to transform society.

From Manning Marable’s essay in Black Faith and Public Talk, 78

Prayer at the Close of Day

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Gilbert Meilander’s Working