I want to be one of those people who has profound thoughts – thoughts that change, inspire, and move. Alas, my thoughts are just weird ramblings of a noisy mind. So here is my account of Palm Sunday, not the Sunday I had envisioned, but the one that I got.
It started a few days ago when Father George sent an email to his congregation. As a means to stay connected in spite of this unfortunate separation, he suggested that we all place a green branch on our door or porch, a makeshift way to celebrate Palm Sunday. Further, he would leave the blessed palm leaves on the porch for us to pick up at our convenience today. What a propitious turn of events on this subdued holy day. Father George thinks of everything – he thinks of us.
Palm leaves. I have not left my house since Sunday, March 15. Groceries and other necessities have been delivered for weeks now. Spring activities for me always include cleaning, sprucing, gardening, planning, preparing, needlework, reading, writing – all solitary endeavors. So yes, I am a solitary person, perfectly comfortable (and happiest) at home alone with my family. Usually alone, unless someone visits. No one visits anymore. Not this spring, anyway. Before I leave to venture out into this increasingly remote world, I have to ask myself, What is it like out there? I need palm leaves. Need. I need them on my door to declare to the world, We still exist here!
A few moments after 10:00, Mr. Bennett and I hop into the car and head to church. The satellite radio station is set to Bluegrass – Norm must have driven the car last. But I don’t change the station because the song playing is “Where Else Would I Go but to the Lord?” It’s a fair question. I wish I could ask those who have already departed. They might be able to elucidate things. As we reach the flashing yellow light down the highway, the first oddity I notice is the price of gasoline – $1.77 per gallon for non-ethanol gas, which is usually 20-30 cents higher than regular gasoline. Since I moved to this part of Louisiana years ago, I have never witnessed such low prices. In town, it was even lower – $1.59.
Further up the road, spring announces its arrival via the ubiquitous red clover bordering the highway. This writer doesn’t know if it is growing there by design or happenstance. If anyone out there in the world knows the answer to this conundrum, please share. I’d love to thank the one responsible (human or deity) for this welcome sight along the long expanse of highway between my house in the middle of nowhere and church at the end of the earth. Maybe that description of the countryside where I live is an exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like as I drive along with Mr. Bennett with nary another traveler in sight.
When I reach town, and turn the corner, there she stands, tall and exposed – St. Lucy’s. The parking lot is empty on this Palm Sunday. Everyone is hiding from the current scourge stealing life from the planet. The sign on the door is outdated. If only Mass had been cancelled for the month of March, we would be sitting there together again. Il faut patienter. We must be patient. The blessed palm leaves are lying on the porch table, just as Father George promised they would be. Some people do what they say they will. Some people can be trusted. A world full of those people is what I hope this place will become. Is that dreaming the impossible? If so, then what else is faith? I’ll hang onto my small dose of faith, thank you. Even if that means believing the impossible because nothing is impossible when you have faith.
Around the back of the church repose the departed. I want to ask them what they know about all of this alone-ness we are experiencing. But they lie there silently, guarding their secrets, even from the only human likeness that I see – my shadow.
Let’s go home now, I say to Mr. Bennett. He obliges. When we return, I grab my granddaughter (gently, of course, so actually “grab” is a strong word), and together we hang the green palm leaves on the mail box – because my house is not visible from the street. Then we hang one on the doorway, and another on the dock. (Was I only supposed to take one? I don’t know! These are unprecedented circumstances!) Through whichever entrance one passes – even though no one enters, but they will again one day, so that is the day of which I speak – I want visitors to see the palm leaves as a beacon of hope, the mirror image of faith. Well, everyone except Death, that is. He is not welcome here – to him the leaves say, “Move along. There’s nothing to see here.”
When we finish our task, the non-verbal granddaughter indicates with a gesture that she wants to see the azalea bush. Susan’s azalea. Granddaughter loves flowers, which makes being outside in spring with her very endearing. As I stop in front of the bush to give her a closer look at the blossoms, she grunts. That means she wants me to pick a flower for her. Ok, ma cherie. I’ll pick a flower for you, but we must use it wisely. She looks at me, smiles, and wiggles. She agrees with me. I choose a beautiful bloom, hand it to her, and walk back to the dock. Granddaughter lets go of the flower, tossing it into the lake as if on cue. Of course, she just let go of it to watch it fall, but let’s imagine that she’s precocious enough to understand the magnitude of this endeavor. This is in memory of all those who lost their lives today, Palm Sunday, to Covid-19. Go find Susan. She’ll welcome you and show you the ropes. She’s really sweet that way, I say. We watch the azalea get carried away by the current. The clouds’ image in the water gives the blossom an ethereal glow, perhaps carrying a veiled message from us to the beyond. It must be resplendent up there. After all, we are here, in this wretched place, and voilà, spring arrives and Susan’s azalea blooms.
The day is done. And here we are again. Alone with our shadows on Palm Sunday. Weird, isn’t it? “Stillness of soul is increasingly rare in this world addicted to noise and speed.” (Sarah Young) Let’s take advantage of this gift of quiet. Let’s remember those who can’t.