Jerusalem Journal # 175
Winds of change have blown across Middle Eastern desert sands causing archaeological evidence of civilizations who once staked their claim upon the “terra sancta” of Jerusalem to become obscured, even buried under rubble, city infrastructure, and the ideologies of past cultures. A melange of cultures still struggle like ancient gladiators in the amphitheater of historical narrative as they vie for ownership of this land…a dance of life and death.
“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? If so, I can’t imagine why. We’ve all got time enough to die.” The lyrics from one of Chicago’s best loved tunes once spilled from the windows of my 1972 Ford Mustang as I burned the pavement from hometown Springfield, Missouri to my college campus at Southern Methodist University Dallas. More than forty years have passed as quickly as that highway landscape disappeared behind my Mustang and I am now living half-a-world away where the song’s message still breezes through my mind amidst labyrinthine corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Jewish First and Second Temples never existed according
to a growing Islamic narrative about this disputed site
We are living in a contested land where cultures even carry out their struggle against homogeneity in the realm of time. Gary and I are experiencing the confusion of this struggle and how it can wreck havoc on punctuality. Every Sunday morning the colossal church bell beyond our balcony clangs with urgency, alerting the faithful to an upcoming service, but at what hour? “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?”
Tellers of time: The Bible, ancient pottery shards, a wristwatch, and a cell phone
Look closely at the photo of my watch and cell phone. The upper watch face reflects East Coast time in the U.S. so I can keep current with my daughters and grandchildren, while the lower face is set for Israeli time. Meanwhile, segments of the Palestinian Authority refuse to change to Daylight Savings Time when Israelis move their clocks forward one hour, so my cell phone (with a data package purchased from a Muslim Quarter vendor) shows one hour earlier than my watch while we are in the Muslim Quarter and other parts of East Jerusalem, then automatically switches ahead one hour when we move into other areas of the city. Checking the phone “settings” it shows my time zone is Hebron. “Does anybody really know what time it is?”
Our friend and one-time housemate, Brookie, operated in two different time zones. Although her body was being robbed by cancer’s final ravages and the sands of time ran more quickly through her hourglass, her spirit operated in the eternal zone; however, a recent stroke paralyzed her frail frame and cancelled her ability to speak encouraging words from the Bible—a Brookie signature.
Gary and Brookie share laughter at “The Cottage” in 2006
With news from Brookie’s doctor that only hours of life might remain, an artist friend of ours decided to paint something that showed Brookie in a stunning pink and orange dress, crowded on either side by a multitude of angel wings as they were escorting her to heaven. She asked if I had an old white bed sheet. “Better than a bed sheet,” I responded, “I have three yards of fine white linen intended to line curtains one day, but the linen is for today.”
Out of the storage box and into service, we spread the linen fabric across a sofa bed Brookie had slept on for the nine months she called our tiny bunker-esque concrete rental house “home.” During that time we learned to value the importance of relationship over privacy and comfort, endearingly dubbing our living arrangement as “The season of the cottage.” It was there, in the nitty-gritty of living together, the sincerity of her life was demonstrated.
As we held the linen selvages, my thoughts drifted to Brookie’s days in the Hollywood entertainment business, when flamboyant speech, gestures, and attire clothed the outer Brookie, but after meeting Yeshua at age forty…extravagant prayer, praise, and an obedient spirit clothed her irresistible flamboyance with a new zest for life. It was a transformation she was compelled to share with everyone she met.
Our dining room table quickly converted into an easel for the linen to become a piece of art that would be both a shroud for her body and a testimony to her spirit. Five hours later, as the painting was nearing completion, we all hoped that Brookie would be able to see it before it was too late. I snapped a photo of it on my phone, then Gary and I raced over to Brookie’s house where a prayer/praise vigil was on-going.
Brookie approaches heaven
Entering the darkened bedroom, Gary sat beside her stroking her hand while I crawled up in bed beside her and massaged her paralyzed shoulder. I thought of our friend’s painting and didn’t want death to steal Brookie’s opportunity to see the beautiful dress and the crowding of angel wings. “I want you to see this vision of you,” I breathed softly in her ear as I clicked on my phone’s camera and held it above Brookie’s head. Sunken eyes that had been ￼shuttered suddenly bolted open as she grabbed my phone, holding it for herself, absorbing the image, before slipping back into a morphine slumber and soon a coma.
Firstfruits barley was harvested in Yavne’el Valley prior to Passover
The memorial service brought together over three hundred of Brookie’s local friends who came to grieve and to honor a mighty woman of God. She was lowered into the soil of her beloved Israel covered only with the shroud which became her final earthly gown. She had seeded a springtime harvest of lives that filled the train of a garment even Hollywood couldn’t conceive.
In both life and in death, Brookie reminded us to keep our eyes on the heavenly clock and not let our hectic lives enslave us to an earthly schedule. “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Choose wisely the keeper of your time.
Enjoying the walk home,
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