Joy is the Simplest Form of Gratitude – Karl Barth


He has walked out now, into the night

and the starfields, whose honest face

shines as did his own. his long shadow

slow voice, and devotion

circled the pole-star of love, unwavering

and if he did waver, and if he did tire

then it was only a mortal weariness

the heart of him, that lambent spirit

glows on.

This morning, my uncle left this world, in the wee hours, in the starlit hours. He’d lived a quiet life, with a woodsman’s steadiness and a love of craft. He kept a full and tidy woodshed, heated their little house that way, decorated their broad lawn with creatures carved in birch and pine and whimsy.

His wife, my aunt, was a widow who had cared for her first husband during his long illness. He was younger than auntie by some years, and nobody expected him to go first; it makes sense, though. Auntie, beloved centre of his life, has spent the last years wandering in her mind, needing more and more care. This summer, she had to be put into a care home. I can imagine him seeing, with his kind, quiet eyes, that there was a path before her, but that, lost, she might be years in discovering it. I can imagine him deciding, for the sake of love, to walk ahead. She no longer knew him, they say; but it may well be that now, walking free among the spirit woods, under the stars of eternity, he is free to reach back and console her, to touch her clear spirit behind her faded mind.

He will forever, for me, be that avatar of joy as the simplest, truest gratitude. Rest well, uncle. You are much loved.

The quote from Karl Barth is today’s message in the Catholic Medical Mission Board Advent Calendar. I hope it pleases Uncle Robert to know he is part of the reason that, while I don’t profess the faith, I honour my family in their Catholicism. He lived well.

If you like these posts, please also consider donating, in the memory of Albina Sewell, to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton; her chosen charity for memorials is not religiously affiliated, but serves all children.

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