Lately I've been reading a lot of Ann Patchett.
I read Bel Canto awhile back and really liked it.
More recently I read The Magician's Assistant and now I'm reading Run.
In Run, one of the characters is Father Sullivan, an aging Catholic priest spending the end of his life in an assisted living facility.
In the following passage, Father Sullivan is awake too early in the morning, unable to sleep, thinking about the faithful who regularly visit him, believing he has divine healing powers.
But now that his heart had become so shiftless and unreliable, now that he should be sensing the afterlife like a sweet scent drifting in from the garden, he had started to wonder if there was in fact no afterlife at all.
Look at all these true believers who wanted only to live, look at himself, clinging onto his life like a squirrel scrambling up the icy pitch of a roof.
In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future; instead, Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine.
It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself.
God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that all the bats had been put back behind the closet door.
God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn't see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light.
How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to some thing greater.
What could be greater that the armchair, the window, the snow?
Life itself had been holy.
We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God and in his life Father Sullivan had seen it miraculously for eighty-eight years.
Why wouldn't it stand to reason that this had been the whole of existence and now he would retreat back to the nothingness he had come from in order to let someone else have their turn at the view?
This was not the workings of disbelief.
It was instead a final, joyful realization of all he had been given.
It would be possible to overlook just about anything if you were trained to constantly strain forward to see the power and the glory that was waiting up ahead.
What a shame it would have been to miss God while waiting for him.
Run by Ann Patchett
The passage made me stop for a moment.
Driven by my interest in the ongoing narrative, I read on, but not before I dog-eared the page.
It struck me as one for further contemplation, one to ponder with a hot cup of coffee.