Not Just the Saints

Buechner is remembering his days at Lawrenceville: 

AND I LOVED THEM, these others, those friends and teachers. I would never have used the word love, saving that for what I had felt for the girl with the mouth that turned up at the corners, and for Naya, my mother and brother, but love of a kind it nonetheless was. Even the ones I did not all that much like I think I knew I would miss when the time came. I sensed in them, as in myself, an inner battle against loneliness and the great dark, and to know that they were also battling was to be no longer alone in the same way with in myself. I loved them for that. I wished them well. And then there was Jimmy, my first fast friend; and Huyler, who of all of them heard out most healingly the secret of my father; and Bill, skinny and full of life and the brightest of us all, who would have added God only knows what richness to the great ragbag of things if the war had not ended him before he more than got started. I could not imagine who I would have been without them, nor can I imagine it to this day because they are in so many ways a part of me still.  

* * * 

On All Saints' Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own. 

And I found work to do. By the time I was sixteen, I knew as surely as I knew anything that the work I wanted to spend my life doing was the work of words. I did not yet know what I wanted to say with them. I did not yet know in what form I wanted to say it or to what purpose. But if a vocation is as much the work that chooses you as the work you choose, then I knew from that time on that my vocation was, for better or worse, to involve that searching for, and treasuring, and telling of secrets which is what the real business of words is all about.  

- Originally published in The Sacred Journey

To receive daily Quote of the Day emails, sign up here.