Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Faith Works 9-27-08
Jeff Gill

Watching The Sun Set, Reflecting Light Into Darkness

We celebrated our friend Don’s life, in a sanctuary lit from the west, not the east.

The sun was going down, with the golds and reds in the stained glass casting an unusual glow across the crowded pews, filled with smiling, crying people.

After the service was over, we rolled down off of the hill where Thornville perches, a view northwest over an arm of Buckeye Lake starting to fill with a faint haze below, and just enough scudding cloud above to give the sky some depth and texture.

We were crossing Don’s mission field, laboring up towards the Jacksontown ridge, where browning treelines caught an extra russet hue to our east, and then passing under I-70, we started seeing glimpses to our left of the wide, open valley where the South Fork bends from Hebron towards Heath.

Old historic State Route 13 crossed the even more historic White Chapel Road, dipping through Hog Run where some of our earliest county history was set down in parchment deeds and sandstone grave markers.

Up the other side, and across Dorsey Mill Road, with an ancient Adena burial mound of Native American cultures two millennia ago and more in the backyard of a much newer home; a mound which is also the first recorded “archaeological dig” in Licking County back before the Civil War.

A few of the fallen from that war, and more foreign conflicts in decades since are laid to rest in Mount Calvary Cemetery, glanced at quickly as we snake right and left and down off Radio Heights, Jenkins Knob, or whatever you call the sudden and brief view of Newark’s courthouse ahead and the invisible (from above) border with Heath, before you come to the corner of Linnville Road, National Drive (the old Plank Road), and Hopewell Drive.

We turn left, crossing the South Fork eagerly surging towards a meeting with Raccoon Creek to our right, and wend our way to the busy corner with Rt. 79. Business aplenty to the left and the right, with the darkening stillness of the Great Circle straight ahead, trees multiple centuries old having survived the windstorms, while a couple did not, and lay fading on the grass.

Down into the trench between the Wehrle factories on Union Street and Modern Welding off of Williams, then bursting out into the sky, leaping Raccoon Creek next to White’s Field (where the ghosts of Babe Ruth and decades of Friday & Saturday night heroes play), arcs lifting left and right with solid earth beneath but oh so much sky overhead.

If you are heading south, or a quick and familiar eye in your rearview if you’re branching east or west going northbound, you see the treelined curb of Blue Jay Heights southeast of downtown Newark, where the united waters of the North Fork and that of the South and Raccoon branches are urged on to the east, the darkening east which is the destination of the single Licking River, exiting the mysterious channel of Black Hand Gorge on towards the Muskingum Valley.

We head on west, where the light is not even fading anymore, but dimming, and the first stars – really planets – are popping above along the ecliptic’s curve. Rt. 16 skirts the first outcroppings of the Welsh Hills as we head for home.

Truly, we live in the Land of Legend. The thing about that is that many, most of those legends are true stories. Mary Harris and Christopher Gist, Catharine Stadden and John Chapman, Chaplain Jones and Theophilus Rees, Jonathan and Margaret Benjamin, Israel Dille and Victoria Claflin Woodhull.

The list goes on, and our friend Don is now one of them, a legend whose story inspires; but the creativity is in how he lived his life, not in how his life was written. Most of the details are not terribly literary or dramatic, but how he lit up a gathering, even as the sun set, is the glowing heart of the story we’re not done telling.

Don, of course, would want me to say that his was a reflected light; like the moon that rose as I meditated on this Land of Legend we call home, that clear pure light is reflected from the sun, and what Don shone into lives around him was what he picked up and reflected from the Son, his savior, Jesus the Christ.

Rest in peace, Don, until all the legends of this land are raised up and seen in the clear light of truth, at the last telling of all tales.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a legend you know at