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Soaring & Broken on the Fourth

Today was a Fourth of July unlike any other I can recall. My heart is full…

...and I am heart-broken. Wistfully peaceable.

The first holiday activity in my day was with Beloved Community folks. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Ps 33:12) followed closely by Psalm 137:1-6: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept … How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Acclamation of faith on a national holiday. Song of lament too, with bodies carrying the burden of our country’s history, slavery, aware of it or not.


CrossFit offers various “hero WODs” for national holidays. Today I did “Small,” honoring U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Marc Small, 29, of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, died February 12, 2009, survived by his parents and his then fiancee. Three rounds of rowing, burpees, box jumps, and running. It felt good to move AND it was an exhausting burner, 55:23 time for my scaled version. It has become an important way to honor, for me.


I wrote most of the afternoon. Broiled hamburgers and a basil-tomato salad later, I curled up with a fleece and my papers, books, iPad. Which is when I checked my email. My father had sent an mp3 file he wanted to share, that he is sharing with friends who live close to him and mom. “Stars and Stripes Forever,” played by the Wheaton College band, 1961.


Oh my heavens. What a gift.


I must have listened to it over 15 times, sending the link and message to close friends whom I thought would receive the file well, saying “About two minutes in is the piccolo solo: MY MOM, 1961. I can’t stop playing it…makin’ me cry!”


And I mean, messy crying, which I just let come, surprised by it. Why?


I loved hearing my mom play, and play that solo. She’s often so quiet, preferring the background, but here, soaring above, simply stunning. Something about sensing her young self, hearing her exquisite artistry in community. Immediately, I sent it to several friends… (which will probably dismay and embarrass my mother, but too bad. It’s awesome!). Tears flowed for the wistful beauty she creates.


But to other close friends I did not send the link. Various reasons, but a caution arose in me about sending the classical patriotic tune…though all I wanted to share was this amazing thing my mom did in college.

Because it also opened some floodgates in me, grief I am more aware of today…the Psalm 137 realities of our shared USA history of chattel slavery, racial enmity, ancient and recurring ancestral wounds. Frederick Douglass comes to mind, with his “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 1852 (Readable on Google books).


There is so very much to be tender about, care-full with…even if the file-send was about my mom, for me.


My heart is full. And broken, this 4th of July.


Mom, I love that I will always have this file. You soaring above the band, doin’ your thing.


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