Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Smiling God

Can’t remember when, probably at some dusty market, I picked up an Icon of Jesus. It now hangs on the basement wall. In the painting, as in many icons, the Christian deity is kind-eyed and sourpussed. The serious face gazes out from the ten by five inch block of wood the image was painted on. I have been told the faithful of the Christian Orthodox church see icons as sacramental, as imbued with the spirit of God. That in some real way the painting on the wall is more than pigment and wood, but the very essence of Jesus. In some way, Jesus lives within the artwork. Bowing to her children’s demands, a woman who had lost her husband donated every stitch of clothing he owned within a week of his death, save one undershirt. It was tucked away in the corner of a drawer, neither the woman nor her children noticed it during their cleanse of the home. Worn threadbare, the shirt had been a point of gentle contention between the two. She told him to throw it away, she knew he never would. Today she sleeps in that shirt, because it is a close as she can get to lying next to him. We do not die whole. We leave pieces of ourselves scattered through worlds we have inhabited. Slivers of our souls have leached into old T-shirts, drops of our spirit left in ripped and worn copies of our favorite books, flashes of our very lives imprinted on old photographs. But the biggest portions of ourselves we leave in those we have known. Each of you who has cared for another now harbors pieces of them inside of you. We are homes for wandering souls. When I heard this woman’s story, I went home and took a look at that icon of Jesus. That sternfaced deity. I relaxed on the couch, turned on the music I like and once comfortable called back to mind the pieces of all those I have cared for and have left this world. They drew breath once more, if only in my mind. We sat together, and after some time I glanced up at the face on the icon and though it was impossible, and it only lasted a moment, the stern-faced God seemed to smile back. *Google image search

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