Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Memoriam: Jim Murphy

How hard is it to memorialize someone you never knew? How comfortable would you be if you were walking in front of a church and a pastor came out and said, "Excuse me. We're having a funeral in here and the deceased needs some words said about him. Could you come in and say a few?"

But writing about Jim Murphy, I'm finding it's easy when I thought it would be the hardest thing I've ever written. Why? For one, we all mourned for Jim and his family, as we did the thousands of others who died that day. It was a massive, shared outpouring of grief. Something we all had in common on that day and for the weeks, and, for some, years that followed.

For two: Jim apparently liked to tease. I do that a lot, too. I look at his picture: he's got an easy smile, ready to rip open into a big grin. He's about to deliver the line that will lure you in, the one you'll believe for a couple of seconds before you realize you've fallen into his gentle trap. He'll give out a big, bell-peal of a laugh. You might feel mildly irritated for a second or two. But you won't be mad. He didn't do it to be cruel. He didn't do it to humiliate.

He did it because he liked you.

But one thing that makes this difficult is in measuring that positive, upbeat, teasing, joking personality up against the horrible way in which Jim was murdered. It's too easy to feel the anger down to your bones, to feel your teeth clamp together, to feel your heart shrivel, to feel the hot tears leak from your eyes.

The verse play J.B. by Archibald MacLeish is based on the story of Job, whose children have been killed, whose world has collapsed all around him while all he can do is kneel on a heap of dung and beg God to give him the answer of "Why me?" Toward the end, as parts of his life begin to reassemble themselves, J.B.'s wife, Sarah, says:

The candles in the churches are out.
The lights have gone out in the sky.
Blow on the coal of the heart
And we'll see by and by. . .
We'll see where we are.
We'll know. We'll know.



"The man who knows what's right..."

and will not be deterred.

Be Alert & Aware!


Gottafang said...

Indeed, sir!

Eighty-one years old and with a blog! That is just amazing. Thank you for adding a comment.

Laura said...

Our memorials are part of the 2996 Project: bloggers honoring those who died during the terrorist attacks on the United States, September 21, 2001.

September 21?

What would you do without me checking your type-o's? :)