Saturday, August 6, 2011

Purpose

I ran into a neighbor and told him that our senior ex-neighbor Comer had written poetry, which I offered to publish for him as a book.
"Comer wrote poetry!" exclaimed the friend, shocked.
"Yes," I said, "And he was very excited about my offer to make it a book."
"Well you better hurry with that," said my friend.
Comer is 93, and slowing down. I knew I had little time to waste if I was going to help him touch this dream.

So I spent the whole day typing Comer's poems. I edited the few grammatical errors and guessed on the words I couldn't quite read. The paper they were written on were small yellow scraps.and sometimes the words trailed off into indecipherable squiggles. Some were haunting and enigmatic, images I wished I had thought of. Many were of an obviously young man hurt by spurned love. Those ones were simple, but the honesty and aching soul they exposed was something everyone could relate to. Some were lessons learned through a rich and difficult life.  When I finally finished around dinner time, my head ached, but I wanted to rush them over to Comer for proof-reading.

I knocked on his door at the Assisted Living home and his face broke into a wide smile of delight and surprise.
"I brought your poems," I said, "I wanted to get them to you as fast as possible so you could start the big job of proofing them."
"Oh my!" he exclaimed.
"Most I could figure out, but at times, I just couldn't decipher some words."
"Well, I wrote them at night....in the dark."
"Why?"
"That's when they came to me."

He was holding the binder with the neatly typed pages, and slowly thumbing through them, reading and remembering the strong emotions that had propelled him to huddle in the dark, capturing verses before they fled. I realized that I had not told him how much I had enjoyed them.

"I thought they were wonderful, by the way."
"You did?" he said anxiously, "They weren't too...silly?"
"No Comer, they weren't silly at all. They were wonderful."
His eyes teared up, and I realized anew how desperate every human soul is for encouragement, no matter how many years we have walked the earth.

"Who was this one about, by the way," I said, flipping to one about a love that was lost.
"Oh I don't remember now. I didn't marry Evelyn till I was 33.  I had a lot of girlfriends before then," he said sheepishly.
I laughed, "Well, now you have a big job in front of you. Edit the mistakes, and correct the words that I guessed at. Then call me and I will pick it up and make the corrections, and order your proof!"
Comer beamed.
"I am going to sit down right now and work on this," he said.

As I walked out, I saw the other residents gathering for dinner. I suspected Comer would be skipping dinner that night. I had left him more purpose driven and excited than I had ever seen him. I hadn't known him as a working man, but I know he loved his work. He had once lamented to my husband as they stood chatting in his yard a few years back, "You know, I made millions of dollars in my day, and now I just sit and watch the grass grow."

I methodically work my way through the Bible, and when I finish, I start back at the beginning. Each time, I glean new thoughts, new comforts, new chastisements. I am back in Genesis again, and reading about Abraham, how he followed God to a ripe old age. Abraham was 100 years old when he had his son, Isaac. We were never meant to fade away with no purpose. If nothing else, every aging person should be writing a journal of what they have learned to pass on to their children. And every child should know that in every old heart, there beats all the passions, and fears, and insecurities, and hopes that beat in his own youthful chest.

As I left Comer, he called out, "Oh, I thought all night about what I should call the book."
"Did you come up with a name?"
"Yes, I think I will call it Comer Lafayette's Poems. Lafayette is my middle name. In the south where I grew up, they pronounced it lafeet. I know my readers won't pronounce it right, but I thought that was a nice name for my book."
"It's perfect Comer, " I said, hugging him goodbye, "Now get to work."

Jeremiah 31:3
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you
with loving kindness.
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