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from our birth … to our death … the wonderment …
             —Dr. Charles Henry Wahtola, Jr., November 19, 2021


And so as the priest leads us
in the litany for the time of death,
and though we are sincere
as we pray, Have mercy on your servant,
we laugh as my father tells Father Keith
the sermon can only be as long
as the pole at the entrance to the building.
We pray, Grant him your peace,
and I weep for the impending loss,
and then we laugh as I tell Dad
for the first time he has a front-row seat
for the service (he strongly
prefers the back row).
And mom delivers an impromptu sermon
and the priest steps back and listens.
And we fondly remember how my childhood priest
would sing the longest rite in the book,
and my brother and I look at each other
and recite in unison, this fragile earth our island home,
and we break into irrational joy.
We pray The Sursum Corda, The Sanctus,
The Lord’s Prayer, my voice
barely a whisper through tears,
then we’re laughing again as we remember
how Dad and my brother would escape
the service as fast as they could to go cast
in the river behind the church, and
there in the hospice room, we keep the feast,
Alleluia, alleluia. And all day long,
though perhaps we speak of football
or grilling or ducks, with every word, every tear,
every laugh, we are saying, Peace be with you.
With every hug, every kiss, every
touch, every breath, we respond,
And also with you.

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