“Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver,
With the melody of peace.”
It was the last stanza of the last hymn sung at his memorial service. It was chosen because his wife had once said to him “If I go first, I’ll meet you at the river.”
Her words would prove prophetic. She was killed in a car accident. Many years would go by, but now, as the congregation sang this melancholy hymn, I could envision him walking along the banks of the river and, sure enuf’, there he’d find her.
Happy words to the hymn certainly. What a reunion. Together again.
But as the others sang, tears streaked down my face. And, again, I had forgotten my handkerchief.
I have since placed a whole handful of handkerchiefs in the glove compartment where I’d never needed them before because my wife was always there with me.
But now she too is gone.
Ironically our honeymoon, fifty years ago, was to a river far beyond the border north into Canada. We’d tried fishing the lake without success but then learned from the homesteading family way out there in the backwoods, a long ways from anywhere, that in order to catch fish you had to walk down the middle of the river that served as the outlet to the lake.
We did. We stumbled and slid on the slippery rocks. We laughed, pulling one another up from having fallen. Soaking wet we continued on, snagging our lines occasionally in the branches of the overhanging trees.
And we caught our dinner.
And I’ve been forever thankful that we caught one another.
One of the closing lines from the film “A River Runs Through It” directed by Robert Redford, is what anymore describes me now:
“I am haunted by waters.”