One of my favorite movies is "Smoke Signals" written by Sherman Alexie. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. The movie focuses on the story of Victor and Thomas, two Coeur d'Alene Native Americans, as they travel to Arizona to retrieve the ashes of Victor's father, with whom he had a troubled relationship. The movie includes one of my favorite lines, "sometimes it's a good day to die, and sometimes it's a good day to eat breakfast."
In the final scene of the movie, as Victor pours his father's ashes into a river, the voice of Thomas recites a poem titled "Forgiving our fathers" by Dick Lourie and adapted by Sherman Alexie. I think the poem speaks to all of us whatever our relationship with our father is or was. It can also be read in terms of our forefathers. When the movie first came out and I heard the poem my daughter was 9 months old and I experienced it from the perspective of a son. Now that I have two teenagers I also read it from the perspective of the father in the poem. Forgiveness, of course, is a central aspect of the Christian faith. The final line of the poem is a deeply theological and spiritual question for all of us.
Forgiving our fathers
How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream.
Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often or forever when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage,
or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all?
Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?
For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning?
For shutting doors?
For speaking through walls, or never speaking, or never being silent?
Do we forgive our fathers in our age or in theirs?
Or in their deaths?
Saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our fathers, what is left?
One of these Father's Days I hope to have the courage to give this poem to my children, ask them how they forgive me, and if they do what is left?
The Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams, Rector
A funeral for Donna Hazlett will be held this Saturday, 6/17 at 11am.