My friend Dale has Parkinson’s. He has boarded a train in Michigan (he’s now in a long-term care center there) to be with “The Chicago Seven” – the seven former classmates who gather annually at McCormick Theological Seminary. This year, Dale’s speech is hard to comprehend. He is reduced to listening. Death and dying are sitting at the table.At the morning reflection and round-table sharing, Dale is sitting to my right. When his turn comes, we look at Dale. There is an awkward silence. He hands me something. He wants me to read aloud what he’s written. I read his words aloud.
The surrogate voice reads on,
the author sits and sobs
wrenching tears from primal depth:
from some abyss of joy or nothingness…or both.
The author’s sighs and piercing sobs
invoke a hush,
dumb-found the wordy room.
He cannot speak,
his Parkinsons’ tongue tied,
his voice is mute, in solitude confined,
all but sobs too deep for words.
Another now becomes his voice
offering aloud in a dummy’s voice
the muted contribution
in poetic verse the ventriloquist’s voice has penned.
The abyss of muted isolation ope’d,
his words, re-voiced aloud,
hush the seven to sacred silence, all…
except from him, their author.
Whence comes this primal cry:
From depths of deep despair and death,
from loneliness, or depths of joy
We do not know.
The surrogate voice reads on
through author’s signs and sobs,
through his uncertain gasps for air
and our uncertain care.
The iron prison gates – the guards
of his despair – unlock and open out
to turn his tears from prison’s hole
to tears of comrade joy.
His word is spoken, his voice is heard,
a word expressed
in depth and Primal Blessing,
pardoned from the voiceless hell.
The stone rolls back,
rolls back, rolls back,
from the brother’s prison’s tomb,
the chains of sadness snap and break!
At one, at one, we Seven stand,
in Primal Silence before the open tomb,
as tears of loss, of gain, of tongues released
re-Voice unbroken chords of brotherhood.