Crossing the River

Easter was the holiday. My father used to solemnly tell us as we gathered around our large dining room table for this special family meal after church that, while we all love Christmas (presents!), and the birth of Christ is the beginning, without Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion, Easter, we would not be free to enter the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.

I think of the hymn we would sing with gusto: “Up from the grave he arose/With a mighty triumph o’er his foes… .” Ours was not a particularly religious household in the every day. My mom never attended our Sunday services but stayed behind to prepare some lavish brunch for our return, and likely to savor a respite from her six demanding progeny. It was my father, the one who practiced daily devotions, seated in the bedroom wing chair, who mustered us into the car and drove across the Willamette River to Hinson Memorial Baptist Church each Sunday.

This particular Easter Sunday I remember claiming the sacred front-and-center spot, sandwiched between my father and my older sister on the car’s wide bench seat. I was maybe eight, which would make my sister Mary 14. No wonder she had little patience for me.

I was wearing anklets with lace inside shiny white patent leather buckle-shoes. My dress was lavender and white with an intact sash because, being brand new, I had not yet worn it to school and playground. White cotton gloves snugly fit my folded hands in my lap—Easter finery, yes, but no seat belt—and no rowdy behavior allowed whatsoever in the hallowed seat!

We had just crossed the bridge and were merging onto Morrison Street when a car barreled into the intersection and my father slammed on the brakes, propelling me into the dashboard. In the recoil that followed I slammed back, and looked over to see my shock on my father’s face. A few beats later, I saw the streaming blood from the opened gash on my forehead.

I have no memory of my father’s exact words he said. What I know is that my father told me to put my gloved hands to my forehead while my sister helped. He did not falter but calmly drove us to the hospital for stitches. He scooped me up and left Mary with my younger siblings. When I think of this accident, I harbor no traumatic images. My daddy, as always, came to my rescue.

A dear friend who celebrates her 34th birthday today lost her father suddenly on Saturday. I ache for her and am so far away. What I know is that only time passing will provide the balm for her pain and the solace of memory, true salvation, will arise when she least expects it.

2 thoughts on “Crossing the River”

  1. Our memories are what get us through times of grief. Your story is a prime example of how things happen so quickly. It is also a testament to your father’s calm outward behavior although I am sure that inside he was feeling anything but calm.

  2. What a story! You painted such an image of the family, your father, and then your experience. Imagine how your father’s story would have been told.

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