Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moving is Not for Sissies

"How hard it is to escape from places!

However carefully one goes, they hold you--you

leave bits of yourself fluttering on the fences,

little rags and shreds of your very life."
       --Katherine Mansfield

No—no tornado has hit the Lovette household. We are moving. Or, shall we say—trying to move. We’ve given away zillions of books—nobody wants to buy them. And then there’s the furniture—we’re moving into a smaller house, which means we have to get rid of a lot of stuff. So we have been scurrying around wondering what to do with the Armoire, the Hide abed and the particleboard small entertainment center upstairs. Lord only knows what these things must weigh. here is so much stuff in our attic  we haven't touched for years. Like that dusty brass bed we have never used in 13 years. We’ve given away suits—not enough—and ties and shoes and pants and tops and jackets and that seems only a start. How did we collect all this stuff?

The real hard part is saying goodbye to a place and a multitude of people that I have grown to love in these 20 Birmingham years. Friday I went back to my old church to prepare for a Saturday funeral.  No one was there. The sanctuary was very quiet. And as I stood there looking around at that wonderful sanctuary that we built together a wave of emotion just washed over me. I love that place and those people. I thought of all the ups and downs that we had—mostly ups. The challenge of building that sanctuary was a real miracle—we had no money—and we were all scared. But we stretched and sacrificed and we all grew a little stronger as we worked together. I already miss this place that I plowed ought years of my life into. The faces, the memories just swept over me. As one of my African-American members used to say after a particularly good service: “Didn’t we have a good time.” That's how I feel about what happened there.

Carlyle Marney used to say that God doesn’t come to church every Sunday. After all God is God.  But Dr. Marney continued by saying you better be there because some Sunday when you least expect God he is going to walk down that aisle and stop at your pew and if that happens you will never be the same again. God surprised us all in more Sundays than I can remember.

I shall miss that tall columned church where my wife and I have been a member for the last few years. We celebrated the hundredth anniversary of our sanctuary last Sunday and I have loved the inclusively, the woman with her very proper hats, the old homeless man that sits near the back, that handful that have been there forever, following their parents and grandparents. We all love that cluster of little ones that run down the aisle for children’s time reminds me of a midget United Nations. All colors—several nationalities. The children love their church. I shall miss that special place and its splendid music and vast ministries.

How do you say goodbye to a place where you have spent twenty years? I keep going back to that stained glass black Jesus at 16th Street church reminding me of that awful day when four little girls were killed and Jesus, and so many of us still weep. The KKK never realized their dastardly act would be the hinge-turning moment for the Civil rights movement..

How do you say goodbye to a place? The Birmingham News  has been so generous in allowing me to write my ramblings on Sundays. Dear Ron Casey opened that door for me some 20 years ago. I shall miss those editorials and courageous columns that have angered some in Alabama but helped make our city a better place.
I shall miss the Y where I have worked out my demons week after week. Swimming, weights, running some I have a cadre of friends there—and I shall miss their faces and our bantering.

 Probably the hardest thing to leave will be my friends. Some of these relationships stretch back for fifty years. A few that have always been there through all the ups and downs. We always say we will keep in touch and call and email—but there is a heavy grief there in knowing that it will never be quite like it was. We will all move on.

Up and down the street where we live we have people we have grown to love. We borrowed sugar and sometimes eggs. We compared notes about gardening. We called each other some times and said, ”Help.” We laughed and it felt good to know they were there across the street and around the corner. When we were gone several weeks ago one of these neighbors cut my grass and nobody would own up to it. I tip my hat to that anonymous grace.

I love my house and I love my garden. In some ways I am glad October has come and the wild, yellow black-eyed susans have died away. Leaving them blooming would have been hard.

Buechner in one of his sermons said he sat on a porch with friends high in the mountains. And a friend asked  him, “Why would you ever leave this place?” Maybe you are asking that of me. Why? Every time we drive back to South Carolina it feels like we are going home. We spent 13 years there—and that church was a Camelot for me. Of course it will be different—very different. But our children grew up there and we have friends all up and down Interstate 75. And we're much closer to our daughter and grandchildren. And so, we decided in our old age to give it a try. Buechner answered his friend that asked the “why would you ever leave this place” question by saying: “I guess we all move from place to place to still discover what it means to be a human being."  And I think he is right—we all still have some growing to do.   

This will be my last blog piece for several days. I’ll be writing soon under a Carolina moon. Tiger Country. The Upper State. I will report from time to time on what comes through my head  and what my beating heart is trying to still learn. Never forget that to be human is the unending challenge all the way to the finish line.


  1. Welcome home Roger and Gayle!!! We are so happy that you are coming back!
    Susie and Larry

  2. Often when we go through Birmingham on family trips to and from Enterprise we say "We shoulda called Roger and Gayle to see if we could drop by."
    Yeah, we shoulda. I know this move is a very good thing for you two. The good folk of Clemson are lucky to get you.