Friday, November 12, 2010

The Tolling of Donne's Bell

I had an inadvertent moment of reflection earlier this week. I confess to not doing reflection very well-I long ago chose between fight and flight and when I tell you I go through lots of shoe soles, you can guess my choice. Tuesday morning was different.

I had an early morning email from a colleague with whom I either correspond or speak on the phone twice a week, simply asking if I were okay. As I was working on an errand and another project, I didn't respond right away. A short time later I had a call from a casual stranger, someone whom I know but with whom I have little day to day interaction, calling to 'see how you are' which was answered, seemingly, when I did.

He inquired if I had seen one of our local newspapers and if so, had I checked the obits section. Both of my answers were in the negative but I understood why he'd asked (My sympathies to the survivors). I hadn't realized I was part of a franchise but now recognized the subtext of the email message from earlier and how not responding wasn't helping matters very much. In the course of the next two days I was more than a little surprised over the number of people I heard from in connection with the news note.

Let me be clear: there was no outpouring of emotion rivaling the renaming of Bedford Falls or a singular moment of clarity-as a matter of fact I think I detected a note of unhappiness in at least two voices when they learned I was still among the living (patience, my friends, patience).

It's odd (for me) to think I could have lived x number of years not all that far in distance from someone with whom I shared a name and have never shared any other aspect of our lives (I don't even like pineapple) and yet here we were, two more puzzle pieces in the same device. lives in parallel paths never intersecting until the horizon.

I don't think I'm experiencing survivor's guilt since I doubt someone is bestriding the earth calling out departures in alphabetical order, though with a God who crucified His own Son you can never be too sure, I am being more careful with each footfall before taking it, weighing every word a moment longer before wielding it like a weapon, trying to breathe out as much as I attempt to breathe in.

We live only a short distance from the congregational church near the green, up the street from Saint Patrick's Cathedral. The bells from both toll at various times during the day, every day. Now I better understand how some no longer hear the bells and why.
-bill kenny

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