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O God of All Parents

Bless M-----, O Lord,
    who lost his son to the war:
        not by bullets, or IED,
        but PTSD,
          and drinking himself to death,
          and the futility of fighting
            the demons that followed him back
              to Alabama, all the way from Fallujah.

    We saw M----- on Sunday, in the hospital, 
        waiting for his son to die,
          strung up with wires and tubes and
          those adhesive patches stuck to his chest and his arms,
            once strong and hard, 
              which must have surely made M----- proud
                because his boy was so beautiful;

    we saw him, waiting, for his son to die,
          saw him stop and tend to that old lady
            trying to make her sweet way down the hallway,
              and he spoke kindly to her even though
        his own heart was broken;

Bless J-----, O Lord,
    who lost his dreams for his girl:
        not of wealth, or high society,
        but what most good parents want for their kids—
          a happy and God-fearing life, well ordered,
          with husband and children and neither too little,
            nor too much—
    and yet she slept with a boy too soon,
        and now all those dreams, dashed;—
    but even in his grief,
        he never once shamed her, thank God,
        welcomed her back home, and trusted,
          that good would come from the shards
          of his dreams, crashed,
          of his, and her, broken hearts;
        he and his wife too old, the girl too young,
            to be tending to a baby crying
              before the light of dawn,
                when the night is darkest;

    and yet he tells me, over coffee, with an honest tear in his eye,
        that he is happy,
            to be alive, and to be living
                this life with his wife,
                  and his girl, and his girl’s girl,
                  and that he loves them;

Bless F-----, O Lord,
    whose boy was shot by the police:
        not because he had a permit to carry,
        but because he was black, and
            his tail-light was out;
    and she says she has regret
        and she chokes back a sob, and
          she says she has regret she did not argue
            with him more, say at least
            one more time, yes I know all the white folks
              say we all ought to have our rights,
                to tote our guns, but,
        and she chokes back another sob, and
          she says sometimes she gets so mad that her whole
            body starts to shaking,
              and I see a bit of the tremor start
            in her beautiful, wrinkled right hand,
          so mad that she wants to kill
            that policeman, and she hands
              me a stack of old photographs, and
            points at the top one, and says,

                this is my boy,

            this is my boy, and the tremor
              breaks to a sobbing, and, then, 
            after the sort of heavy stillness that precedes quiet,
    she says, quiet-like,

        I heard say that policeman was a good boy,
          and that he cussed himself
          after he shot my boy,
          and that he done take to drinking, 
        and I wonder, I feel fright, for that boy,
          and for his momma, and
          on good days I pray for them,
            and I ask God to forgive me
              for my hateful heart.

    O Lord God—thou
        Who lost his son,
        Who lost his dreams,
        Whose boy was killed by the powers-that-be—
            bless, we humbly ask, all mothers and fathers.

—LCC, 11 July 2016

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