Emily's Reader

Many years ago I made weekly visits to a nursing home in Lake Placid, where I lived in my early 20s. There, I sat with a woman named Emily Alden Pierce, who, like me, loved literature. That winter into spring I became Emily's reader. She was blind, in her 70s, I think, small and very kind. 

I have always loved reading aloud and being read to. I believe with my whole heart that books and the stories contained therein are among the great treasures of this life. I love the way it feels when you open a new book, the freshness of the pages and the wonder of what might be alive inside. I love reading at night, before I go to sleep. I love libraries and bookstores. When I was a teacher, I loved reading to my kids more than anything else. The power of the story cannot be underestimated. 

The other morning I woke up thinking about my friends, Ashlee and Matt. For some reason my thoughts were drawn back to the day when I stood with them, high on Matt's father's property in Salem, New York, and walked with them through their wedding ceremony. It's a breathtaking place, absolutely perfect for a wedding, but more than the landscape, I was thinking about the way the two of them were that day. There was stress, of course, the day before their wedding, but what I noticed was how kind Matt was to Ashlee. How patient he was with her, in her pre-wedding state. I saw the roots of their bond and I knew that it was good.

It did not surprise me in the least when I learned, about a year after Ashlee and Matt got married, that they were fostering a baby boy. And then, that they had chosen to adopt him. Even though Ash and Matt had two girls of their own and were both very busy with their work: photography and farming, they had chosen to bring into their lives another life, one that came fraught with medical issues and adoption issues—very great needs that required attention and devotion. Still, they welcomed this new life, little Matthew.

On the day that I had the honor of joining them in matrimony, I read to Ashlee and Matt the words of their neighbor, one of my great theologian heroes, Frederick Buechner: Every wedding is a dream, and every word that is spoken there means more than it says, and every gesture - the clasping of hands, the giving of rings - is rich with mystery. And so it is that we hope with every bride and groom, that the love they bear one another, and the joy they take in one another, may help them grow in love for this whole world where their final joy lies.

This whole world does, indeed, hold our final joy, and we have a responsibility to caretake this. To take the myriad blessings of our own existence and to offer them as a gift to this world. I have time...I will visit with you; I have eyes...I will come and read to you; we have room in our home and in our hearts...you will come and live with us here and we will love you.

We learn so many things in school as we grow up: that we are meant to persevere and that we must get good grades in order to succeed in this life. We must read and write and compute and try, if possible, to have original thoughts. But what they forget to teach us is this: we already have gifts, we come locked and loaded into this life with treasures buried deep inside. The goal is to find the treasure, honor it and then return it back to the world. We did not come here to be miserly; there's a reason that miserly and miserable sound so similar. You are a gift; you are frankincense, gold, blood and bones, you are sunlight and moonlight and music and springtime. Spend it all before you are dust again. Amen.