Busy Living

Easter Sunday was Simon’s favorite day of the year. This was new because for most of his life, it had been Thanksgiving.

When the family was young, Thanksgiving meant laughter and stuffed bellies and football at the city park. Once the kids flew the coop, Thanksgiving provided the one time of year when everyone found their way back home. They rendezvoused at their Appalachian cabin and blew the weekend gorging on country ham and Mary’s famous yeast rolls. They sat by the fire, on the porch swings and on the lakeside dock, reading novels they’d swapped or catching up on the months they’d been apart. They picked up their decade-long Spades tournament, keeping a long-running tally on a legal pad sitting atop the fridge. No one knew what score they were playing to, nobody cared. They took meandering walks among the Hickories and the White Pines. On Saturday night, they went into town for Uncle Carter’s famous BBQ and then to The Rusty Nail for local mountain music. Thanksgiving carved out a haven of joy and simplicity.

Since Mary died, however, things were not so simple.

One might think that Simon gravitated to Easter because of the story of resurrection, the possibility that Simon might one day hold Mary again. The fact is Simon was not drawn to Easter so much because of what it said about the dead but because of what it said about the living.

The first Easter after Mary died, Simon sat in a pew toward the back corner. Mary had only been dead three weeks, and it was late Easter morning before Simon decided to actually show up for the service at St. Thomas. He didn’t want anybody telling him to say Allelulia. He didn’t want to make a joyful noise. He didn’t want to endure a boisterous homily. Jesus may have walked out of the grave, but Mary lay underneath six feet of cold dirt.

When the Reader read the Gospel text, however, Simon noticed how all the characters were running everywhere, frantic, and it amused him. Mary Magdalene running to the two disciples, then Peter sprinting off to the tomb, only to be overtaken by another disciple whose jet speed forever ensconced Peter as the brunt of Easter-sermon humor. All the running struck Simon as funny, and he chuckled, louder than he wished. Folks on nearby rows raised their heads and looked his way. The Reader seemed startled for a moment before she regained composure.

Patrick, Simon and Mary’s oldest son, had always been in a hurry, always forgetting something. At least twice a month, Patrick would leave his lunch or homework or tennis racket he needed for practice. He’d dial his mom or dad, asking them to make an emergency trip to school. Twice, when Patrick went backpacking with friends, he called Simon from the trailhead two hours away, once needing his sleeping bag and once his hiking boots. The last phone call caught Simon on a stressful weekend as a publisher’s deadline loomed. After a terse conversation, Simon slammed the phone. “What’s wrong with this kid? He busts around without a care in the world, expecting someone else to pick up his life. The boy needs to slow down, I swear…”

Mary stood at the kitchen counter, holding her tea. She watched Simon and smiled. Simon knew that look. He knew wisdom, ever so irritating in moments like this, was coming. “You know, Simon,” and Mary paused. She liked to pause when she knew she had Simon’s attention. “Patrick forgets because his life is so full, he can’t keep track of all the good things. I hope he keeps forgetting a few details as long as he possibly can. The chaos means he’s living.”

Simon did not know why the resurrection reading carried him to this memory. It must have been the chaos, the frantic running. Simon laughed, interrupting the reverent worship, receiving confused stares. Maybe Mary Magdalene and the disciples scurried about because, on that shocking morning, their life just took off without them, insisting they catch up. Maybe their circuits overloaded with all the previously unthinkable possibilities. Maybe they were invigorated with the brilliance of how much life mattered, how much their life mattered. In the first Easter story, Jesus’ grave split open, and this meant everybody needed to get moving, get busy living.

That afternoon, Simon dialed up Patrick, just to say hello and that he’d been thinking about him. Then Simon poured a dark cup of coffee, sat on his back porch as the sun warmed his face and wrote the first page of a new novel.

13 Replies to “Busy Living”

  1. your fiction is beautiful and simple… and feels so familiar. thanks for writing that makes me breathe deep.

  2. There is so much of the Collier clan in this story, it only left me wondering if Wyatt or Seth were the frantic runner. I imagine it to be Seth. And tonight as I read the Road to Emmaus story to my girls I was struck that the men invited Jesus in to stay with them because the road was dangerous after dark, yet as soon as they recognized him they left at that very hour to walk the long road back to Jerusalem. Danger no longer mattered, only the sharing of the Good News. As you said – they had to get busy living. No more fearing in the dark and waiting for the light to come. The Light had arrived.

  3. I would love it if you wrote a whole fiction book. I think a lot of people would. It would be lovely.
    Joy to you

    We never met, I missed your family at DCF by 2 years, but just know there are a few of us, who have never known you, that love to read your and Miska’s blogs. You can see the brightness in the stories people left around share.
    So thank you

    And I look forward to the book someday

    1. Hi, Stephanie. The novel will happen one of these days. Sorry we missed you at DCF. And thank you for your kinds words and for taking the time to write them. I do love the word ‘brightness.” That’s a good way to be remembered.

  4. I’m with Stephanie – get that book written, Winn. Please. LOVE this – and that Mary was a wise one, wasn’t she??

  5. Winn- what a lovely concept- being so busy enjoying life that a few things are forgotten- That excites me as it is a way of looking at things I would never have considered, yet will be quoting for days and weeks ahead!
    I also loved this line: Maybe they were invigorated with the brilliance of how much life mattered, how much their life mattered.
    oh, YES~!~
    Thank you. Your gift of words has blessed my day.
    Blessings from Mary, New Zeal;and.

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