Farewell to Herbie

Belated news: Upon arrival home, we discovered (without much surprise) that A.J.’s fish Herbie had not survived the stint of solitude. A brief local burial was held immediately, followed in the evening by a memorial service featuring Psalm 8.

Sorry, no photo; imagine a red, white and mostly blue male beta in one of a couple quart-sized bowls we alternated.

We all took it pretty well, and A.J.’s already thinking ahead to the next pet – while enjoying a little less responsibility for a while. – j

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first benefit of a first pet, and a shared journal

Striking a mutually satisfactory deal with one of my teammates, A.J. recently traded a polished agate (he’d been given) for a beta fish and its life support paraphernalia. Herbie (never mind his previous owner’s name for him) is A.J.’s first pet – if you don’t count short-termers like worms and insects.

As I was reading Tom Sawyer aloud with him and Tee a few days later, A.J. agreed that deal was like the trade of a tick and a tooth between Huck and Tom, described in chapter six: they “separated, each feeling wealthier than before.”

After a few days of feeding, watching and caring for Herbie, A.J. asked me, “What does my fish give me?”

The benefit was obvious to me, if not yet to him: “Responsibility.”

A week later, he agrees. It’s about the right balance.

A.J.’s also plenty proud of his backyard (ours and part of a couple of neighbors’) pumpkin patch, having profited from its first sale today. It’s one thing to sell things for Cub Scouts, another to unload his spare stuff for cold cash. He’s the entrepreneur and saver of the three kids. Hymn with him at bedtime: “Riches I heed not, nor people’s vain praise…”.

Arey’s extended analysis for Honors English of avoidance of responsibility as a theme in Lord of the Flies reminds me of that and other early experiences in modern literature. I think she’s way ahead of my abilities in tenth grade, but declined to do a peer review of her rough draft.

Amid the mass media storm clouds of rumor and lightning strikes of violence, the hymn Tee and I often sing at bedtime rings all the more true: “‘Peace, perfect peace’ – in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers, ‘Peace’ within.” How like the living God to make that professionally barbaric act of tortuous bloodletting the cure of humanity’s self-destruction.

Humiliating and unjust, that Lamb’s suffering was only as inescapable as his loyalty to the One who set him in motion as the eternal Word. He walked into Passion Week knowing what lay beyond its wrenching end. Through him at least one universe entered existence, and its birthpangs of regeneration commenced historically at the rising of the Firstborn. Alternatives are endless and empty of such holy love, wisdom and power; I will venture on no other hope.

Opening my thoughts like this echoes an experience from 20 years ago. Dy and I visited Turkey for the summer with a group of students, staff and recent graduates, learning the culture, language and sharing ourselves with new friends. One of the latter weeks we all spread out among host families in communities around Istanbul, enjoying a variety of adventures in immersion and hospitality.

As my host and new friend Ercan (EHR-jon; not his real name) and I got to know each other over tea and games with friends through slow summer days, we each revealed as much as we dared about ourselves with growing trust. Living in close quarters, he soon discovered my habit of digesting each day’s experiences and insights in a written journal. I was especially keen to note things I knew would interest Dy, as we were out of touch for that week and dating as seriously as appropriate in that setting. My reflections on my Bible reading, conversations with Ercan and others to whom he introduced me, and prayers punctuated my entries in a notebook set aside for the purpose. (Do I need to mention it was paper? My offline journal is not so insecure these days.)

Friends share. Ercan one day asked to read my journal. The wave of incredulity at this unintentional assault on my sense of privacy passed quickly as I understood his honest curiosity. Without too much hesitation, I said, “Sure.” His English was excellent, so comprehension was not a problem. You can imagine how a daily cycle of writing, reading, questions and discussion continued to deepen our exchange of ideas, values and experiences. My risk in transparency was rewarded with mutual understanding and trust.

Don’t get me started, or I’ll tell more of our adventures that week. Between a wedding and a traffic accident, it was memorable for us all. If I get back to Istanbul some year, as I’ve (literally) dreamed, I look forward to finding out where Ercan and others we met then are venturing these days.

Dy announces the successful entry of about 30 staffing job role requests in the system supporting the world-class convention for which she’s helping manage registration. 270 more to go… – j