by Richard Mabey Jr.
In early September of 1993, I turned 40. I have to confess, it was a tough time. I had just broken off a relationship with a woman with whom I was so dearly taken with. Things were not going well for me at my job at the phone company. And, I was once again finding new directions in my writing. Specifically, this was a time of transitioning from focusing on writing poetry to redirecting my energy upon writing newspaper articles and feature stories. I have to confess, all in all, it was a time when I seemed to be plagued with self doubts.
One Sunday morning, upon arriving at church, I noticed that the cross that had stood at the head of the outdoor chapel was missing. This bothered me a great deal. More than bothered me, it haunted me throughout the early part of that week. Midweek, I telephoned my minister and asked him if it would be alright with him if I built a cross for the church’s outdoor chapel. He gave me the green light with much appreciation in his voice.
That very Saturday morning, I awoke early and found a sapling in the woods behind my house. This bothered me greatly, but I felt that it was worthy of the sacrifice. I cut down the thin, tall sapling, with plans to use it to construct a cross for the outdoor chapel at my church. To this day, it still bothers me that I cut down that beautiful, young sapling. Still, another part of me resounded in my heart that it would be worth sacrificing this young sapling. I have to say, the conflict still lives within me.
With the sapling cut down, I then dragged the thin tree to my backyard. I cut off all the branches, so that what remained was a tall wooden pole. I figured out where it would be best to cut the sapling to build the cross. I then placed both segments of the freshly cut sapling into the trunk of my trusty Ford Escort, grabbed some lashing rope from the cellar, then drove the mile down Main Street to my church parking lot.
I remember it took me longer to build the cross than I had anticipated. I wanted the cross to have a good footing, so I dug a deep hole to place the base of the cross. It’s funny the things you remember. I remember how it was well after 12 noon, I was growing a bit hungry and I was working on the lashing for the cross.
I was tying a square lashing, the sun provided a comfort of warmth on this windy autumn day. Somehow, someway the memories of learning how to lash two poles together came back to me. My dad had taught me how to do lashings, in our backyard, when I was about 12 years old and preparing for the requirements to become a First Class Scout. Dad taught me well.
As I tightly strung the lashing along the surface of the freshly cut sapling, I could hear the echo of my father’s voice, “Richie be sure to keep your wrappings tight, keep them neat, take the time to do it right.” As I tied the lashing to build the cross, even though a quarter of a century had passed, the cherished teachings of my dear father were still guiding me.
The cross ended up taking much more time than I had anticipated. If I remember right, it was well after three o’clock by the time the cross was standing, completely on its own, at the head of the outdoor sanctuary. I remember feeling a bit hungry, wishing I had packed a lunch. A certain pride came over me, when I took a few steps into the church parking lot to get a better view of the newly constructed cross.
It was in that very moment that I reflected, wondering if my dad had any idea when he taught me how to tie lashings, when I was 12 years old, that I would be using his teachings a few days after my fortieth birthday to build a cross. I don’t know what it was, I still don’t fully understand it, but as I leaned against the front of my car, looking at the cross I had just constructed, tears flowed down my cheeks. I felt the peace that passes all understanding.
It had been quite a while, since I had felt such an inner peace. As I looked at the cross, the worries about my job melted away. I felt a definite healing from the pain I had endured from the recent breakup with my girlfriend. And, I felt such a comfort in having applied something from the knowledge that my dad had given to me when I was a child. With tears in my eyes, I quietly gathered my tools, placed them in my car, and took one last look at the beloved cross that I had just constructed. I drove home with an overflowing warmth filling my heart.
Peace and harmony,