“I’m looking for Ivanhoe by Egghead. I know you’ve got it, Mark!”
The rag-tag children were scattered around the old scarred-up dining room table. There was a huge bowl, now nearly empty, on the wood surface between them. The smell of popcorn hung in the air, but there was nothing to be seen in the bottom of the bowl, except old-maids—the unpopped kernels—and none of the kids wanted to try chewing on them.
The scruffy boy who had spoken held a number of dog-eared cards in his hand, as did all the children. Their father had an unqualified contempt for gambling games, so the family didn’t own a deck of standard playing cards—the type with suits and numbers, along with royalty designations.
No. They were playing Authors, already an old game, even in the 1960s. With cards bearing pictures of classic authors and a list of four of their most famous works, each player would struggle to remember who had called for which author and work, and then attempt to amass complete sets of all the cards bearing that particular author’s writings.
I was the scruffy boy calling for Egghead’s Ivanhoe. Well, the author’s name was really Sir Walter Scott, but his depiction on the card looked for all the world like the shape of an egg. The man shall, unfortunately, forever remain so in my brain.
I hadn’t thought about the game for many a year, although the names of those classic works have come up in my collection of books and in my reading list numerous times in my adult life. Yet, tonight, as I sat at my desk and thumbed through a book of English poems (copyright 1902), my eye fell on the poem entitled, Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
You guessed it. Another of the denizens of that old card game.
You’ll find the poem below.
Funny. Life back then was full of teasing and laughter. Our poetry consisted of John and Debbie sitting in a tree; K-I-S-S-I-N-G, and the like.
We had no idea that the classic works, whose names we memorized simply for the sake of winning a game, consisted of deep, thought-provoking material which spoke of death and of meeting God. Unbeknownst to us, in the works inventoried on that tattered card stock, there were monsters, Muslims, and ragamuffin boys traveling the Mississippi, along with many other wonders.
I have read many of those works over the years, loving some, disappointed in others.
But tonight—tonight—I read the poem.
It is a long list—a list growing longer all the time.
Lord Tennyson expressed his desire to choose how he would depart this world. We don’t get to do that. I’m not sure we really would want that anyway.
I know by long experience that my timing stinks. I leap when I should wait, and stand still when I should fly.
But, my Pilot knows exactly when to embark. And, precisely where to steer the ship. I can’t see Him, but I know He is there at the rudder, just as surely as I know my own name.
Come to think of it, even if I forget my own name, He will still be there.Even if I forget my own name, He will still be there. Click To Tweet
Earlier this year, my cousin passed away suddenly. There was no warning; there were no days of preparation for the journey. Just a call for her from the other side of the bar.
Just like that, she was gone.
Others I love have taken years to complete their time here—years of suffering—years of moaning as the long days and nights dragged on.
My experience is not unique. All suffer the losses. All look forward to the day themselves.
For all the sorrow and sadness, for all the emptiness and loss, we have a promise—we who are believers.
I’m going to get the house ready for you. I wouldn’t make the promise if I didn’t intend to make it so. And, if I go and prepare the home for you, I’ll be there to welcome you. (John 14:2,3)
Face to face.
The day is coming.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be sitting around playing games while we wait.
There is business to attend to.
I think I’ll clock in again in the morning. You?
CROSSING THE BAR
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson ~ Poet Laureate/Great Britain & Ireland ~ 1809-1892)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.