Several years ago I recited a poem to Susan that I knew she would like. I knew why she would like it. The poem is by Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I recited it again in my Eulogy at Susan’s funeral mass.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live in the bee-loud glade.*
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Well it wasn’t the Lake Isle of Innisfree, but it was a small cabin. On the north shore of Lake Oneida in Central New York State. It was the family camp. Susan’s family would spend entire summers there. Card and board games. Tea kettles and cups. Sunbathing. Laughter. Fishing. Food. Family. I knew this poem would bring those memories flooding back. That’s why she would like it so much.
We visited the camp on every trip to see the family. Susan loved it there. I said to her once;
“You know why you love coming here so much, aside from the obvious reasons, why you long to see this place when you are away? There is a deep primal need in all of us to get back to the garden. To get back to a place of peace. A place of recreative silence. Joy. The unencumbered embrace of family. But most of all, so that we might, at the time of the evening breeze, in the cool of the day, walk with our God.
“That’s what we want. That’s really what we want.
“You believe in that garden don’t you sweetheart?” “Yes,” she said, “I believe.”
We thought and studied about other gardens too. Gardens of the past, present, and future, for all who believe.
One garden in particular, in the distant future, spoke to us like never before.
You can read about it in the last book of the book of books we call the Bible. John wrote it as an exiled prisoner of the Roman Empire on the Isle of Patmos (about 35 miles off the coast of south-western Turkey). We know it as the book of Revelation. Otherwise known as “The Apocalypse of John.” Apocalypse comes from a Greek word meaning to uncover, unveil, reveal. Thus “Revelation.” It’s a book about Last Things. And things in between too. Fittingly, the final two chapters reveal the destiny of the people of God. Two chapters that give meaning to all that has gone before. Both in the book of Revelation and all of Scripture.
Although many naturalists yearn for it, there will not be a return to Eden. The human couple began in a garden paradise, but the final scene is that of an enfoliated, fruitful city, and the unencumbered embrace of a very large family, from every tribe and nation. . The Tree of Life will be there. The River of Life will be there. All suffering and evil banished forever. But the most important part of living in the Garden is seeing, walking, talking with our God. That’s the longed-for future. For all who believe.
Oh happy day.
The first reading at Susan’s funeral mass was from another book. The book of Job. A book about great suffering but unlike Revelation, the problem of evil remained unresolved. And yet, yet, incomprehensibly, Job, a man who suffered much, could say:
“But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;
Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes,
not another’s, shall behold him;
And from my flesh I shall see God;
my inmost being is consumed with longing.”
At the end of her mass, I finished my Eulogy with…
“Sleep for a season sweetie. I can’t wait to walk hand in hand with you into the light and life giving presence of a loving God. My inmost being is consumed with longing.”
“You believe in those gardens don’t you sweetie.” “Yes”, she said, “I believe.”
This post is a shortened version of a longer post entitled “Two Gardens.”