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"Lightning" by John Gower

Gary Miller

Our friendship began the day that Mr. Haynes was struck by lightning. It was a splendid day with hardly a cloud in the sky when seemingly out of no where I heard a, BOOM, and I saw Mr. Hayes thrown right off the tractor-mower he was running in the outfield of my high school. Right after that the sky quickly darkened and it began to rain and lightning all over the place but at the time of that first BOOM it was as though that single bolt of lighting was aimed right at Mr. Haynes. You could say it was his wake up call, and it turned out to be mine, too. 

Even though I wasn’t related to Mr Haynes and in fact we had only shared a few conversations before that day, the ambulance driver assumed we were very close, perhaps a father and son. I didn’t mind because as the driver intuited I had become quite attached to Mr. Haynes. Mr. Haynes had not said a word since being thrown off the mower but his eyes were quite alert. When I first reached him his eyes were closed and he wasn’t breathing but as I bent down his eyes opened and that is the moment when our long friendship began.

It’s been ten years now since Mr. Haynes was called to the service of the Lord. We bought houses next door to one another on the same quiet street in the outskirts of Burlington. An extended family decided to move to Florida and we took over where they left off. We share a vegetable garden that runs together behind our yards. I have a wife and a two year old son now and we all go to the same church together.

Mr. Haynes still hasn’t said a word and as I’ve watched him interact with people over the years I sense he prefers it that way. Each interaction takes time, takes a slowing down, and forces an attention to one another. My. Haynes is rarely in a hurry, it’s as though he understands something about time that the rest of us either don’t know or simply chose to ignore. It’s as though that BOOM had sparked an attunement to what living is all about, and luckily I was there to see it in his eyes just as he became aware.

You may have heard the saying, be careful where you go, because you absorb the company you keep. Well I think that’s true because when I go out to the garden and weed and harvest with Mr. Haynes I slow down, way down, and I can feel some of what Mr. Haynes feels. I can feel time. I can feel it in the soil, in the sky, in the vegetables. My wife wishes that I would talk more. She says it would be better for our son. But I think I was imprinted that day that Mr. Haynes came back from the dead and it made me realize just how much of my talking is done to distract myself from the precious few moments of living I have. That lighting bolt made my living feel like a gift to use in anyway I please. I hate to squander the moments with nervous chatter. I notice when I’m in the garden with Mr. Haynes how quite and intentional his movements are while mine are more herky-jerky and full of inward chatter.

Perhaps the lightning bolt really was directed at My Haynes. Whenever I hear a meditation bell I think of that bolt of lightning and I go quiet. Not as quiet as My Haynes for my mind is still full of chatter but quieter. I am reminded to be grateful for living, whatever it is, and I am reminded to express this by paying attention to being alive. The big bell in the sky can ring at any time for me and all my chatter will be gone forever. I want my living to be aware of dying. Dying is the soil in which I grow.

I don’t know if there is a Lord, but I know Mr. Haynes, and he was once dead and now he’s not.

            He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.