Sure on this shining night Of star-made shadows round Kindness must watch for me This side the ground
The late year lies down the north, All is healed, all is health High summer holds the earth, Hearts all whole
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder Wandr’ing far alone Of shadows on the stars.
~James Agee “Sure on this Shining Night”
See this beautiful poem sung in a choral setting, interpreted by Morten Lauridsen here and by Jay Giallombardo here
It is high summer holding the earth now; our hearts whole and healed.
Our family come together, now parted,
and I weep for wonder that we had this time,
at this place, under these stars.
May we live sure that another shining night,
we will be together again.
Amen and Amen.
“The sunlight now lay over the valley perfectly still. I went over to the graveyard beside the church and found them under the old cedars… I am finding it a little hard to say that I felt them resting there, but I did… I saw that, for me, this country would always be populated with presences and absences, presences of absences, the living and the dead. The world as it is would always be a reminder of the world that was, and of the world that is to come.” Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow
Today, as always over the last weekend of May, we have a family reunion where most turn up missing. A handful of the living come together for lunch and then a slew of the no-longer-living, some of whom have been caught napping for a century or more, are no-shows.
It is always on this day of cemetery visiting that I feel keenly the presence of their absence: the great greats I never knew, a great aunt who kept so many secrets, an alcoholic grandfather I barely remember, my grandmother whose inherent messiness I inherited, my parents who separated for ten years late in life, yet reunited long enough for their ashes to rest together for eternity.
It is good, as one of the still-for-now living, to approach these plots of grass with a wary weariness of the aging. But for the grace of God, there will I be sooner than I wish to be. There, thanks to the grace of God, will I one day be an absent presence for my children and hoped-for grandchildren to ponder.
The world as it is remembers the world that was. The world to come calls us home in its time, where we all will be present and accounted for — our reunion celebration.