Death, grace, glory
In Lorraine we drive down another hill and I think of my father. How he had lied down on the floor in a nursing home, blood gulping out of his mouth, dying from gastric hemorrhage. An hour and a half before his doctor had called me on the phone. He wanted my father sent to hospital, but my father had refused. The doctor asked if I could affirm that my father was lucid and aware of what was going on. In the background I heard my father saying that he was as lucid as could be and that he didn’t want treatment. I asked if I should come, but my father was adamant and said I shouldn’t.
All day long he had been throwing up blood and he knew he was going to die. But he didn’t want me around. He wanted to spare me the sight. I had to respect his wish, but ever since I have been torn between guilt of not being with him in that moment of agony and gratitude for his characteristic unselfishness. It remains a note of discord in my life that will never be harmonized. My father was my brother, my friend, my closest ally.
The Coast No Cow Can Tell
As we reached the valley, I realized that the song was not only about my father’s death but also about the cow which now lay dying in the meadow. Tears were dropping from my chin on the steering wheel. As I looked at my wife next to me I saw that she was crying, too. Now there was nothing that stood between me and sorrow and relief. I had become sorrow and relief itself. Is it the real me for a moment: the child in front of the silver screen?
It is the last song of the album. The silence afterwards weighed lightly upon us as we were driving through another empty French village. We neared the last houses of the village. The road took a slight bend to the right. Around the bend a bird was sitting right in the middle of the road and it kept sitting there until we were very, very close. As if to show itself to us in all its alien-like beauty. When we were at a distance of about ten meters, the hoopoe flew up and disappeared into the trees by the side of the road.
Instantly I understood that the cow had just died and sent the hoopoe as a sign.
It was 11 AM.
Death, grace, glory
Finally we arrived at the Basilique du Bois-Chenu, which is devoted to Joan of Arc. It’s two kilometers from Domrémy-la-Pucelle where Joan of Arc was born.
Outside the church men in working clothes were putting up a stage and a huge lighting installation. A man in a green coat greeted us and said something in French. As I didn’t understand him at first, he quickly switched to a somewhat laborious English. Carefully searching for words, he explained that next weekend there was a spectacle with 200 supporting actors and a sound and light show. The show was directed by the famous Damien Fontaine who is, among other achievements, a four time winner of the Trophée des Lumières at the Lyon Festival of Lights. For a moment I considered staying longer, but alas we had to be home by next weekend.
It was such a nice gesture from a stranger though: taking time and bowing to us by speaking laborious English. (We should bow to each other more often).
Such a nice gesture on this day of death, grace, glory.
When we returned to our house on the hill, we heard that the cow had been euthanized that morning after having been examined by a vet of the insurance company.
“At around 11 AM,” the farmer said (truly, truly true of course).
That evening the glowing finger on the hill glowed sadly and gloriously in the red and purple sunset.