Central Park

Central Park

Friday, April 18, 2014

You That Pass: A little less levity on Good Friday

Until recently, all I knew about my great-grandfather, Fred Myers, was that he was an English professor at Notre Dame who died when my grandfather was young.

When I was in high school, my grandpa moved out of his big house into a small condo. My dad and I helped him with the cleaning and packing. My grandpa, the smartest man I know, who can still tell me stories about his day-to-day life as a switchboard operator in 1942, didn't feel the need to keep a lot of things around - turning my dad and myself into curators of what should be salvaged from the garbage cans.

Among the things we saved from the dump was a collection of more than 100 pages of poems, letters, stories, syllabi and more that had been my great-grandfather's. It was a fascinating insight into a man who'd died 52 years before I was born.

Among these items was a letter from The Sign, a Catholic magazine, regarding payment for a poem he had submitted.

After discovering that, I looked up the magazine, which no longer publishes but has a searchable archive. After finding out which issue contained the poem (August 1937), I contacted the archives for a photocopy.

At the time, they were moving. I emailed occasionally after that, and finally received an electronic copy this past fall.

I also looked into my great-grandfather's past, aided by the archives of the ND Scholastic. He was diagnosed with leukemia (which the Scholastic defined as a "rare blood disease") in 1933 and given two years to live. He doubled the prognosis and lived until June 1937 - two months before this poem was published.

I printed the poem and framed it for my grandpa's 90th birthday in December. I was reminded of it today during the first reading at Mass and realized that its message of human dignity in the face of suffering is something we should all be mindful of on Good Friday. The poem as printed is pictured above; if it's hard to read, the text:

You That Pass
by Fred Irwin Myers

Oh, you that pass me by upon the road
With face averted and an eye askance,
And ears stopped up complacently:
You reassure yourselves that here I lie
Through fault of mine.—
My friend, you cannot know the chill
Of wounds grown cold, the agony of one
Who faces death alone and comfortless.

I do not ask that you should carry me
Up to the inn; or that you extend yourself
For my amending; I would not have
You oil my wounds with hands that shake
Through fear of my contagion; you need not
Dip the water from the ditch to wash my face
Or bathe my aching throat and eyes:
I have become inured to these!

But could you tarry one short while
That I might sense the warmth of sympathy
The comfort of community and the feel
That though your flesh does shrink from me
You would not leave me quite alone,
Not utterly alone and comfortless.
Just stand across the road while you say
"Hail, brother!" and I shall bless you everlastingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment