Print Version November 22nd, 2004
It’s a day of anniversaries—at least two people have reminded me so far today of what happened on November 22nd … whenever.
A year ago England won the Rugby World Cup. Do you remember? I remember uproar in the team room and much rowdy drinking … of strong tea.
This is a harder one: do you know what happened 14 years ago today? Margaret Thatcher resigned. I have just a remembered image of her gaunt getting into a black car … and maybe a sense of relief. That and the kind of sadness you get watching a elderly tiger pacing in a zoo.
If you are old enough you’ll surely remember this day 41 years ago. Dallas, Texas, and the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I remember coming in from school cold and runny-nosed to strange pictures on a little black and white screen and the sense of a great grief I couldn’t understand from all around me, as though the sun had gone in and wasn’t coming out again.
We remember with our hearts. It’s strange but even today listening on the web to witnesses of Kennedy’s assassination I found the same lump in my throat from 41 years ago. The very one.
‘As Jesus looked up he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins’. There’s a memory-image for you! Sharp and short, like a flash going off, freezing the feeling. I wonder what touched the heart to etch this image for the centuries.
What do I feel if I pore over that picture? There’s an edge of that terror and grief and appalling sadness I can always get on a quiet afternoon in St Helens or Widnes—old ladies, alone, and threadbare, whittled away by the passage of years and hopes. I shudder and feel ashamed.
There’s that but more than that in Jesus’ eyes if I read them right, if I get the weight of his words. There’s anger and wonder and defiance too. And yoking them all, an understanding, a fellow-feeling, a recognition. The two of them, whose eyes never meet, sharing something. A determination, a sacrifice, a joy.