September 1, 2019: Striking the Bell

By Mother Diana

I spent a few days on Cape Cod this month with my sisters. I knew it would involve some moral accounting. We all love each other with the passion of survivors of a rough and tumble childhood. We hold each other’s early wounds gently, but sometimes we ourselves have inflicted the damage.

On the Cape, my nose pricks for the smell of God’s grace in the salt air. Cape Cod is my personal holy land, where as a young child, I first met God on broad Atlantic beaches in thrashing summer storms.

My first morning in Woods Hole, I took a four-mile run around Oyster Pond and came upon a garden cultivated scores of years ago. A church bell, silenced now for decades by its lodging in the dirt, sat in a prominent place. Elsewhere, large granite discs leaned like ancient Celtic ruins among the hydrangea and moss. I stood to pray for a while, and then took off to meet Olivia, my youngest sister.

We walked down a road through a gated community toward a salt marsh. A gatehouse guard asked for my backpack, which we speculated was an intimidation tactic to keep tourists like me away from the soaring houses (“no photos!”) and the squelch of the (public) black marsh.

After I collected my backpack on the way back, our conversation turned to some wounds inflicted in Olivia’s young adulthood. We dug up and examined these hurts like clam diggers in the early dawn, looking for and sharing the juicy, tender bits. Here were the truths she laid before me: Three times, long ago, I spoke cruelly in ways that devastated her. Olivia is 14 years younger than I am, and at first my mind rose up at her comments like a homeowner fending off tourists, hardly wanting to be bothered by slights it was easier to forget.

Then I paused to think of my prayers in the garden. I remembered the church bell unstruck for so many years, and I asked God to release my heart. I suddenly was overcome with grief and compassion. I asked Olivia to forgive me, repeating my sorrow. Later, I opened the Book of Common Prayer to page 450 to read aloud the prayers of reconciliation.

I waited for Olivia the next day outside her house. “Thank you for telling me what hurt you,” I said. I put my hands around her face. “We have so many years together now.”

Last Published: August 29, 2019 5:14 PM
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