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October 19, 2010

Comfort Food

He caught my eye immediately as I passed through the doorway. By the time the teacher finished "Owen your dad's here" he has launched at me, in mid jump, to be caught. He's holding something, today's craft, and proudly thrusts it to within a millimeter of my eyes.

"Oh, what's this?" I retract my head to focus. "Thanks Owen. Cool!"

And this one was a keeper. Once every month or two, the brothers bring home something from class or church that's worth saving. A lot of the masterpieces find their way into the circular file. Okay, almost all of them. Amy and I just don't attach that kind of sentimental value to every pipe cleaner angel and origami fish that finds it's way through the door. We can't, if we don't want to have our house featured on that TV show where all the junk sentimental, practical mementos are piled to the ceiling. 

This orange string of plastic caught my eye. It was woven through six dry rigatoni, with each piece bearing the name of a person in our family. Three dazzling plastic beads completed the necklace. No instructions came with the craft, but I'm pretty sure the beads were supposed to represent the Holy Trinity. Well, they could have; it seemed rather likely.

Neat idea. Personal. Made by Owen.

Normally I sock something like this away to the "secret" box in my closet for future reference and reflection. Or maybe I'd actually use this one, in prayer, as some sort of rigatoni rosary.

But not that day. I was distracted when we pulled in the driveway, leaving the necklace in the cup holder. The following day, Amy or I spilled a little coffee, effectively putting the necklace on a long, slow simmer.

I saw the results the next day while fetching something from the car. Lifting the necklace, the noodles folded and fell off like meat on an overcooked turkey leg. I was sad that it was ruined. It was kind of tragic. I actually froze with the thought that every single person in this family is going to die. Someday, we will.

I don't hover over my children or my wife. I'm not panic stricken with fear. But for some reason, I do fret possibilities and unthinkable senseless tragedy. Sometimes I do feel the pain of separation, and the reality that one way or another, that day is coming soon.

I looked at the lumps of rigatoni decaying more with each roll through the palm of my hand. How fragile. Then I considered the plastic beads and string, not exactly invincible, but unblemished from the coffee incident. All of existance represented in four cents worth of pasta and plastic.

Perishable things last but only a moment and return to dust. That which is eternal runs through us at the core, fully intact, connected by and through the Alpha and the Omega. There's a part of us that doesn't fall away at all.

The Comforter was there all the while. A current of gratitude and confidence ran through my portion of the orange string. And I tossed the lumpy pasta to the dust.

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