True Believers

September 1st, 2009

I used to love watching my grandmother take down her long hair and prepare for bed by putting it into a braid. And then she knelt by the bed and said her prayers. I think my grandfather, a sceptical reprobate, knelt along with her, but I mostly remember my grandmother’s devotions. She was a staunch Methodist who taught Sunday School and rarely missed a service. My grandfather would get dressed in a clean white shirt and put on his hat and drive us to church, but he stayed outside with some of the other men during the service, talking, spitting, jutting their jaws. I wish I had my grandmother’s faith, but even I never got truly inoculated. During puberty, I loved getting saved, or the idea of being saved, but I could never maintain that state of grace for long. Last night, I was reading poetry before bed, and I realized that it has become part of my ritual of faith, just as the Bible was for my grandmother. Poetry is what I go to for reassurance and transcendence and comfort, but my grandmother had Jesus and the promise of a better life after death, and I suspect that provided more absolute security than Milosz, Kabir or Mary Oliver does for me. With poetry, I usually get more question marks and exclamation marks than full-stop periods, and sometimes I envy my grandmother for having a certainty of an everlasting afterlife. But when I read a piece like Some Kiss We Want by Rumi or Postscript by Seamus Heaney I feel a shiver of eternity, a slight glimpse of a larger mystery, and it’s enough.

4 Responses to “True Believers”

  1. angie says:

    As an adult, I feel more free to open my mind to different possibilities than I did as a child. I've learned that I'm able to experience what I define as God and eternity in all types of places. It is truly something bigger (to me) than the words we use to describe it, or labels we put on it. And it always seem to show up in the people, places and things I am naturally drawn to.

  2. Allegra Smith says:

    We all take different routes to the same destination. Whether we know it or not.

    If there is life after life it will be there, not because we believe but perhaps in spite of the fact that we don't. Poetry is prayer, we just often forget that. The Beloved lives within us and we feed it poetry, isn't it then a form of prayer?

  3. Whosyergurl says:

    I too, had two strong women, both believers, who were an example for me. I remember my patriarchal grandma having a "temporance pledge" hanging on the wall. I think things like "what if I got diabetes and I couldn't have a glass of wine or a margarita?"
    I do like the "safety net" idea and especially after my divorce, I became very private in regards to my faith. My faith has been a tremendous comfort to me throughout these years. I do not know how one parents without faith. Just to ask for protection, or guidance or knowledge. And, there have been times that it has been a great comfort to know others are praying for me.
    I haven't read my Bible for a very long time, but I still know a lot of what is contained within those covers. And, it is comforting to believe that my grandmas watch over me.
    Cheryl in IN

  4. V-Grrrl says:

    I read poetry like scripture too. I thought I was the only one. : )