My hands are stained green
From the palms on Sunday.
Compulsively I make small crosses
With them – ripping off their fronds
Folding and tucking and tearing.
They will dry and serve as a reminder
Of the conflicting voices I heard yesterday.
Echoes of the voices throughout the centuries.
Daily we praise Him and cry out for delivery
Daily we call for Him to be crucified.
I have tucked one in my Bible
To use next year, to burn and apply
As Ash Wednesday’s ashes.
I make a hundred more to give away
Little dried reminders of the glory and the conflict of the day.
Then I remembered the palm cross I received
A year ago, from a dear friend who died Palm Sunday.
A year has passed – time has dulled the memory.
When he died, where his fingers stained green as well?
The green faded, the cross crumbled to dust; my memory bleached with time.
I compulsively make these crosses.
I will give them away as a reminder to others
But mostly to remind myself of the fragility of life --
Of the ephemeral nature of existence,
Of the enduring nature
Of the cross,
Of stains that
Be washed away.
I found all the little palm crosses I made last year. I remember sitting at a table at lunch after church on Palm Sunday with a basket of the palm fronds, folding and tucking. One right after another. You have to make them while the frond is still green and flexible or you will never be able to shape and form them correctly. I suppose there is a life-lesson in this. New growth is always easy to shape and is flexible.
This was the third year I have made Palms Crosses – I had made them the two years before as well. I actually am rather compulsive about it. You see, the person who taught me to make them on Palm Sunday almost two years ago died that very day. He was a good man – he wasn’t a perfect man, but good. He was very well loved by the community, as was his wife. He did have a large flaw – he was a flirt. He flirted with anything with skirts. He actually was probably a dirty old man, except he was so charming about it.
He went to church that Palm Sunday and went to lunch with friends. He and a friend hitched a trailer to his truck and went to pick up a horse a few miles south of here. They never arrived. V was thrown free of the truck – he never believed in seat belts and his neck snapped on impact with the pavement. We got the call late Sunday night. I rushed up to the church, to see what I could do, but there was nothing that could be done. The parking lot was dark and there were palm branches strewn about. They were still flexible and green. Over the next few days they dried, their color fading and they became brittle.
I think of this and I remembered this poem I wrote a year after V’s death. It’s not good poetry, but it served its purpose. The fronds from Palm Sunday will serve their purpose next Wednesday. We will sprinkle them with salt and burn them. They become a symbol of our sin and repentance. The glory and triumph of Holy Week becoming so quickly sorrow. We combine the ash with the frankincense and myrrh from Christmas, the oil of anointing. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return".