“There may be a great fire in our soul,
yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it,
and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”
― Vincent van Gogh
(image The Smokey Mountians, credit Pixabay)
A hundred moons ago, my cousin and I…
a cousin who was more brother than cousin,
…well we’d spend the better part of our latter teens and early 20’s perched at a British Pub
in Atlanta listening to such classics as Waltzing Matilda and Over There…
Despite this being the late 70’s and the early 80’s, one would think it was actually the early
part of the 20th century during a First World War.
Of course, that was on the weekends when the lovely older woman would come in to play
the piano, while we’d all gather around said piano, singing such classic songs of days gone by…
songs such as those sung while our boys were indeed still “over there”…
in a different lifetime, far removed from our own but one we still knew.
Yet on other nights, the bar would play the songs of such groups as the Platters…
my cousin’s favorite group.
My cousin was killed in a car wreck in 1980…
he was 23 and I was 21…
There were a handful of tapes found in his car at the time of his accident,
I kept two of the tapes–one being the Platter’s tape.
‘Smoke gets in your eyes.’
Oddly this wee granddaughter of mine seems to love riding in the car while listening to
such golden oldies…
“Joy belongs to those who understand that
earth is but a rehearsal
for heaven. Nothing in life is wasted
that remembers this.”
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(The Very Rev. and Mrs David B. Collins–David and Virginia “Ginny” /
Julie N.Cook / 1981)
In this grainy old photo you see two people who were very much in love—
…and those two people were two individuals who I loved very much as well.
He had been a Naval Officer during WWII and she a staring actress in the original
production of Carousel on Broadway—and yet they somehow met, fell in love, married
and loved one another well into their 90’s….
And they had each loved me.
The year of the photograph was 1981 and it was taken during an evening
a group of us had met up at our favorite British Pub in Atlanta.
The Churchill Arms.
One could have walked into this pub and felt magically transported across the
proverbial pond to a different place and time.
I think both young and old in our group that night wished we were all in England–
during a different time.
Back then, back when I was young, at that pub on Thursday nights,
the Atlanta Bagpipes and Drums would hold court and practice.
There were the nightly dart competitions.
And on Friday and Saturday nights, a dear older lady would play the piano
as everyone would gather around to sing rousing renditions of Waltzing Matilda, Keep the Home Fires Burning, Over There, etc….
all the while enjoying a pint of Whitbread, Guinness or New Castle….
Funny thing thinking about a bunch of late 70’s college kids singing Waltzing Matilda
and actually knowing not only the words but what the song was about and when it had actually been popular….
I think the pub is still there…where it was back in my youth…
But it’s now a modern trendy sort of place sans all the typical Anglophile
No longer does it harken back to a better place and time.
As it beckons to the cutting edge millennial…with it’s more otherworldly
bar atmosphere of the 21st century.
It was probably an odd place for a group of college kids to gather along with their
parish priest, the current Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Philip…along
with this vicar’s wife…..but the church was no small parish,
he was no small church vicar and we were no average lot of kids.
There was very much a homey feel here, there was a fire place, lots of wood—
a place we, a bedraggled little extended “family,”
could all gather to enjoy one another’s company.
A place we could chat, catching everyone up on life at our various colleges and
hear what we had missed at Church.
The drinking age at the time was 18 so we were all good and by the time this
picture was taken, I was well into my early 20’s.
I’ve written about both of them before.
For various reasons…be it because of my adoption, my faith, my family, my life…
as they each had had a prominent role in my small corner of the world.
They each taught me a great deal about life, love, living, dying, fighting,
believing…. as well as lessons about Faith, God, hopefulness, healing and Grace.
They each saved me, more times than I care to recall, from myself.
They each knew of the failings and egregious actions of my life yet
loved me none the less.
As I certainly worked hard at testing that love many a time.
I am who I am to this day because of them.
Better because of who they were.
They actually laid hands upon my head, several times, as they prayed for healing.
Not for a physical healing but for a more profound and more important healing.
A deep spiritual healing.
He was adopted, just like I was.
We shared that—just as she shared us.
She knew the importance of deep healing.
And she knew how important such healing was for both of us and to our pasts—-
to the two people she loved.
They had 4 children of their own…
and then there was me—the surrogate 5th.
They claimed to be my Godparents…by proxy really…for when I was baptized
as an infant, our paths had not yet crossed.
The relationship was set in motion in 1966 when they first moved to Atlanta
in order for him to take the over the position of dean at the Nation’s largest
They are not my parents yet my own parents knew of the great importance and role
this couple played in my life…and where there was jealously there was also
a knowledge that the relationship was necessary for all of us….
Just as their children knew that they were sharing their parents with me
and yet they often spoke in terms of me being “the truly good child”.
Over time, I learned, as I grew and matured, that they needed me just as much
as I had needed them…
life has a way of teaching us such things.
The end of the year will mark a year since he’s been gone.
Her passing was on Tuesday….
And now they are Home, together.
This I know.
Yet that doesn’t make me less sad.
Doesn’t make me feel less lonely.
Doesn’t stop from reminding me that all my parents are now gone…
along with an aunt and uncle, a brother and cousin along with all grandparents.
That all are gone…but me.
Odd how that makes one feel.
Even at almost 60 years of age.
Good-byes are never easy.
There was a time when I could not have weathered this tremendous amount
of loss I’ve experienced this past year…
but I now have a deep knowledge and understanding of Grace.
I am saved by that Grace.
They taught me that…and then some…