Church mouse
I don’t know if these work boots of my grandfather’s were ever worn to church. This fancy basket was a family favorite. To offer a respite to guests before putting dinner on the table Mom liked to have an “Ideals” magazine handy; the poem on the back of this one is entitled “Do It Now” — work, sing, speak, and smile. Photo from Kate Josephson

I noticed the first responder pager on the back of his belt as he steadily walked from the back of the church up front to the pulpit.

My nephew had volunteered to give the sermon for Easter. He had a handful of papers that his wife had printed out for him. The first thing I noticed earlier as I was walking up the inside steps to the sanctuary, was the similar dress material worn by a couple of the young women; I asked if there’d been a memo. The dresses (and the women wearing them) were quite different in length. But — above the small floral design on a golden background — they both glowed with a faithful countenance.

I teased that my niece’s boyfriend with the long hair and beard should stand by the sunlight cross draped in white and hold out his arms.

At one point, a little ways into the sermon, my nephew set down his papers and grabbed both sides of the pulpit. I thought, “Now it’s really going to get good.” It was and it did. No fire or brimstone, but relatable doubts and reassurances — a sense of something “greater than” and an acceptance that the fullness of reality is currently “beyond our comprehension.” Shaking his hand later, we commented briefly on the value of marginal notes and the vexation of twitching kneecaps.

Other Easter sermons have been given by young people at that pulpit — the youth group was often in charge of a service. Sometime over the last couple years, I’d read with interest the handwriting of my nephew’s uncle when it was his turn to preside. He said that as torturous as the crucifixion had been, what happened next must’ve been even worse — that whole “descended into hell” thing. Pause to reflect.

My niece, who was home for the holiday, played the piano. She’d requested I sing loudly, anticipating some keyboard clunkers. How many times can one fake a cough before that high note you know you’re not going to be able to hit? I loved the little postlude ditty she played. I thought she was kidding when she said she wrote it when she was 16. But no, that is most certainly true.

I didn’t read it on Easter, but a Poetry Unbound email, which I recently subscribed to curated by an Irish mediator, talked about hell. He relayed how based primarily on his infatuation with some classic literature, (but also some adolescent mischief) a teacher had found an essay he’d written somewhat concerning. He ends his commentary with “I’m not looking for certitude in poetry, just a bit of the enough.” As perhaps we all are in any of the many things that come our way.

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