Friday, December 16, 2011

Of songs and of trees

I remember.

"Don't turn off your engine. Just wait. I'm afraid when I walk through the gate the guard will say, 'Mr. Hernandez, stop; turn around. We've changed our mind. You aren't being released today.'"

It was early summer 2006 when we drove away from the Monroe Correctional Complex, slowly making our way down the winding drive that led to freedom. Driving in silence along Route 2, all senses fully engaged, his eyes scanning the long-familiar landscape kept from view for 7 years. I remember he opened his window then, leaned his head out and tilted his face toward the late morning sun, eyes closed, his waist-length hair caught by the wind.

"I want to touch a tree." I pulled the van into a county park and we sat for a while. I asked if I could sing to him.

I remember.

Healer of Our Every Ill

Healer of our ev’ry ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness,
Spirit of all comfort: fill our hearts.

In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision: God of love.

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing,
Spirit of compassion: fill each heart.

Give us strength to love each other,
ev’ry sister, ev’ry brother,
Spirit of all kindness: be our guide.

We walked a bit and stopped at a towering cedar, stepping close, encircling the trunk with our arms, joining hands. He rested his cheek against its thready bark and drew a deep in-breath.

I remember. Oh, how I remember.

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