Tick tick tick tick. Stay this moment, you are so fair.

The clock ticks along the rhythm of life, the same measured amounts, eternally portioned out one at a time. That is all we have really. This second. It’s a cliché, I know, but how often do we all forget the obvious?

Some years ago, a woman at my church lost her husband. He was a tender, kind man, happy and loved by many. She was very little of those things. She was well loved, but not for any soft qualities. He had cared for her, treating her like a princess for all of their life together but it was not until his illness that she learned to care for him. She learned tenderness by force; learned to tend to someone else by sheer necessity of human need. But she learned well.

He died. We all wept. She was lost.

She, too, was sick and it was only a matter of months before it was obvious that she would not live much longer. Leaving worship one Sunday she said to me. “What is that song, Preacher? One Day At A Time Sweet Jesus? Well, I can barely handle that.” “Sometimes,” I said, “it’s just one hour at a time.”

But I was over generous really. It is only this unforgiving, forward charging minute, this tiny second in which we live.

The day she died I was there along with her entire family. She lay in the bed right next to the big picture window. I had my hand on her head and arm. We all prayed. Her breaths so slow it seemed that time arched out between each one, barely holding them together. I lifted my hand from her head. She breathed out one last time.

We had never gotten along. She had never been sure of “lady preachers” and she wasn’t the sort to temper her tongue with sugar for the sake of peace. I was half acceptable because of my paternal Madison County pedigree. But only half. Her words were often sharp and cut me more than once and, to be fair, it is possible I was not always as kind and gracious to her as I could have been.

And yet here I was, right here at this last second and that at her own bidding. All I could think was to hold tight to these little moments right here. This tiny second. And this. And this and this. And say: stay this moment, you are so fair.


‘Stay this moment’ is a quote from the diary of Virginia Woolf. More importantly to me, it is also the title of a book of photography by Sam Abell, my life long favorite photographer.


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