There is an end. And a beginning.

Forty minutes ago I arrived at Job’s Pond at Portland, Connecticut. I got out of the car and just breathed. Blue cloud-marked sky. Green grass. Quiet waters of the pond. Absolute silence. Just the kind of moment I love. Just the kind of moment I need much of the time.

But tonight it is different.

Across the water is the local YMCA summer camp. It is still set up as it has been since June. Kayaks and peddle boats upside-down along the shore. The enclosed area marked out where it is safe for the kids to swim. But the sounds of their summer joy have drifted away.

Everything felt different. What was it?

Ah! Obviously. It is the first time this year that I have felt the summer slipping away, pulling away from the dock and beginning the trek to wherever summer’s spend their winters. That must be somewhere deep in the heart of God.

I stepped out on the deck and sat down. I looked over at the empty camp. Although I interact with people all day every day, as individuals or in groups, I also make sure that a certain amount of the time I am on my own. In those latter times I almost never feel what I have felt on this beautiful evening. Alone. Without. Alone.

I am glad that this does not come to visit me much. This feeling of emptiness which teams up tonight with that sense (true sense!) of the passing nature of all things. The camp and the kids were here. Now they are not. The summer was here. Real and bright and loud and happy. And now, it is passing away.

The passing nature of the present moment – as my friend Marina McCoy drew it forth skillfully from her love of Saint Augustine in her post on this, his feast day [see – is always true. But there are some “now’s” when that truth can almost take your breath away.

I have been privileged (sometimes in very difficult circumstances over the passing years) to stand with families, to pray and cry and hope with them when a loved one has left this world. In all that time I have managed somehow to almost never think of my own mortality. Maybe the time was not right, although I believe in my heart that to live with a sense of the reality of one’s own passing nature through this life makes life infinitely richer and love (actually) possible at all.

But tonight, I do think, not in a morbid sense but truly – and unexpectedly – I am going to die. I am going to die. There is going to be a day, and indeed hundreds, thousands, likely millions of days, when I will be a memory if that, a part of the past, here no more.

The thought makes me want all the more to live this evening, and this night, and tomorrow. To live them fully and humanly and lovingly and well.

Out on the deck one of the neighbors greeted me as she swam by, as she does the length of the pond every morning and every evening. We each commented on the beauty of the evening. And of the truth that summer is passing, and of our hope for an easier winter. And then my next-door neighbor, out on her porch, unseen through the century-old yew tree between us said, “And then spring will come, as it always does. A new spring. Thank God for that.”

Indeed. Thank God for it all. For the coming of all, for its growth and blooming, for its life and color and noise, for its quieting and weakening and moving toward divine silence, and for the rebirth of new things that are also the same.

Thank God.

Job's Pond, Portland CT
Job’s Pond, Portland CT

4 thoughts on “There is an end. And a beginning.

  1. Hi John,
    It’s Eileen Horgan’, “old”, classmate from SMH! I subscribed to your column, months ago! Serendipitously! Your words- tonight – moved me to write! It is the eve of the birth of a new nephew! My brother Patrick and his girlfriend- Kathy! They are both older parents- as I was – when – my husband and I welcomed our now – 14 year old- son! We named him John- after my Mum’s father! His nick – name – is Jack- for my Mother Jackie! She passed away – a few months before our – John / Jack’s joyous birth! ” Circle of Life”! As my Mum’s oncologist referred to the irony… Serendipitous again tonight… As I read your profound … Beautiful words! Have been contemplating same thing! The seasons…. Loss of summer…. Etc. just sent a text to my brother… Expectant Father… And earlier … to … Mum to be! Mentioned two Saints … Who I … Ei… relied on… St. Gerard and “St. Jackie”! I know she was there… As our boy entered this earth!!! Felt her hand , on my shoulder!! Again, reminded my little brother … to “talk to Ma”! She is always there!!!!

    So grateful, found your Website!!! Inspiring to see – a fellow classmate- doing what they were meant to do!! Still searching- getting closer!!
    God Be With You John!!!!! You are doing great work!!!
    Hope to see you at our 40’th!!!! Oh my!!! Mother of God!!!!!!
    Would love to talk at some point!
    With Love and Respect’
    P.S. Sr. Monica would flip over my – over use of !!!!!!!!

    1. Eileen! I am SO happy to hear from you tonight. Glad to hear the tales of new and renewed and blessed life. I would love to be in touch. OMG I keep forgetting about the reunion! When is it? 40 years??? Who are these old people? I remember babysitting the night my mom and dad went to his 25th from English. I remember thinking: Wow! That is really a long time ago!!!

      Blessings and thanks,

  2. John, this is strikingly beautiful. I cherish experiences such as the one you describe. I think this is what Merton meant when he wrote that every moment and every event carries “seeds of contemplation.” I thank God that you were able to perceive what God was speaking in silence, and I’m so very grateful that you shared your insights with us. Blessings!

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