When the Time Comes: A Poem for Thad Holcombe: Everyday Magic, Day 701

091202_ThadHolcombe_Abuhler24_edit_web-213x300Our friend Thad Holcombe’s retirement party today drew hundreds of people deeply touched by Thad’s work and life. Students from recent years and long ago, family, fellow organizers, ministers, teachers and others spoke of his legacy today. Here is my poem that I shared at the retirement festivities, held of course at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, a place almost synonymous with Thad after his 22 years of stirring the pot (and the heart) in our community.

When the Time Comes

 

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods”

 

 

You let go because it’s just another way to exhale

and you know how much the universe loves a vacuum

it can fill in the next inhalation. You’ve held the work

of your life against your bones with just enough lightness

that the small fire in the center of the sky lantern

can ignite flight. Then the horizon takes what’s released

beyond, and you go back inside to begin again

the daily tasks of daylight and love.

 

How many conversations composed mostly

of time, listening, waiting for the flock of goldfinch

to sweep sunlight into the moment? How many meetings

in a big room lined with northern windows and stories?

How much holding steady to whatever faith is:

a balance of weather and garden, schedule and surprise

folded in time’s arms? How long the list,

how quick the gait, how hot the coffee, how late

or how early it all cycled through you again?

 

Now there’s just the late spring, green saturated with green,

lilacs finally back for their week-long dance,

the quiet before the ending, the filled large room

with those who love you or barely know you, all

carrying stories and hot tea, hugs and incredulity.

Then stepping outside, an old trick after days of cloud

lifting just enough to shine what’s shone through you

directly on you now that the time has come.