O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
As I looked into her eyes, deep brown like mine yet fading in this ninetieth
year, I saw a question, but not the kind that a daughter wants to see. I saw an
unformed self, a wee one, one who has not yet become, looking for an identity or
some sort of “Yes!” that clears away the other direct questions she chose to avoid
and ignore when more of her was there.
Or perhaps not chosen.
Perhaps the degree of harm she endured splintered her beyond the place of being and knowing. Pierced
again by my sorrow, I smiled at her. I kept asking God, Please help me stay present.
Please help me stay present.
We are at the end for now, she and I, and someday she will release her grip – her strong, willful grip – and move to the other side.
For years, we have been waiting together – for what, I am not quite
sure. For the first fifteen or so years of my ascent out of unreality, I was waiting for
answers, for mothering, for someone to come out and play. But for the last eight
years after she let go of some of her long held secrets while clutching others even
closer, I released expectations, eventually. And her. Now, we wait mostly in silence
with occasional looks at each other, where she longingly searches my eyes for some
sign that tells her something that I do not even know. She asked me, Will you come
again? When she lived in the ancient terrible house, the answer was no.
Now, I replied, Of course. I will come again.
O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.
“They gave us directions to the picnic area. It’s a little bit out of town, but we
will have plenty of space there, they said.” The day camp director from Anacostia
sounded hopeful as we made our way back to the bus after the stop for restless
children and adults who had been on a bumpy, worn bus, exploring roads that they
rarely if ever traveled.
It was one of those mission trips that I question now – the ones where the privileged go to help those without, while knowing that the ones to whom they went had answers to questions that we did not even know to ask.
I wanted my girls to taste and see – to know that there are others who are both not
us and are us, as we are not them and them, too.
The country road emptied of people and thickened with abandoned shacks as we crept into the eerie backside of a Civil War legend, Harpers Ferry, where John Brown chose to mount an attack with twenty-one men, five of whom were black, on the national armory in an attempt to arm the slaves in Virginia with weapons to fight against slavery, where later he was hanged by the lawful.
The farther we went, the more sighs and laments began to rise, in low guttural moans and high breathy cries. Fear moved from seat to seat, touching an icy finger to the heart and gut of every adult on that bus, shifting to each child. Dread triggered the release of long held agony into the open air, into children
familiar with gunshots and drug deals. I could feel terror rising in me, slipping coolness around my heart as I held my daughters closer, feeling what had been felt for generations but knowing ultimately that it was not my fear.
The bus stopped. We descended into the Promised Land picnic area, miles away from Harpers Ferry on the backside of some godforsaken field, filled with sand and ants and bees. Submerged anger displaced Fear. Push it down. Don’t let them know that we have been abused again. Just have fun, children. We have
come too far to go back now.
We have come too far to go back now.
How long, O Lord, how long?
O come, Desire of nations, come, bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid every strife and quarrel cease and fill the world with heaven’s peace.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
Waiting. You. Me. Where is each of us waiting in our singular task of birthing the
Kingdom in this world? Hope deferred makes the heart, sick.
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
The desire when it comes is a tree of life.
Sue Kranz considers herself mostly grateful and humbled these days. She lives in central Florida with dreams of the mountains, Montessori, and a simple life of beauty and imperfection, inviting those around her to taste and see and to not be afraid.