This Too Shall Pass
By Timothy Tron
Walking along the dirt road, the thud of the man’s walking stick kept time with the beat of his heart. Alongside him, beyond the forest ferns and blooming dogwoods, the river ran clear. Here and there, the rush of white-water pulsating through rocks and ledges as it flowed forever onward echoed the sound of the time. These mountains were the home of Fetch’s family for as long as he could remember. They were the clan of Gragg, a remnant of those ancient forefathers known in their mother country as the Clan of MacGregor. They had emigrated from Scotland centuries before to escape the tyranny of England. No longer a young man, his memory spanned the deep hollers and ravines like the morning mist, each with a story of its own.
As the aging Gragg’s eye scanned the distant horizon, the mountainside was shrouded behind curious folds of clouds awash in pink and gold. Tiny birds flitted about as bats dove in the twilight air, creating an orchestra of life, ebbing forward and never ceasing.
Somewhere in the distant shadows, the sound of the Whippoorwill called. With it, an eeriness washed over his mind. A day or so before, he had sat upon the porch of the building he now called his “Retreat.” There, in the shade of the forest along the trickling brook, he sat sipping on some hot, bitter brew and reflected back to the year before when the porch had not yet been built. There had been so much that had passed between the here and now. Like the river that flowed nearby, its current like the movement of time, never stopping, always flowing onward.
When the shadows of the valley of darkness are all about, we cannot seek the end of the ravine fast enough. Yet, when we reach those heights of jubilation, we often fail to remember the struggle that it took to scale those monumental walls to reach our peaks in life.
The beat of the aged Sycamore kept time to Fletch’s legs as he pushed ahead. Somewhere the Whippoorwill called once more. Like a shift in time, his mind was pulled back to the century before, to a time of greater hardship, much worse than today. The death toll made that of the current crisis seem like child’s play; the 1918 Swine Flu Pandemic.
Just then, the sound of the song, “Wayfaring Stranger,” began to play through his head. The ancient sound of a mandolin tickled the notes to the melody as the sweetness caressed his soul, “I am a poor, wayfaring stranger. Traveling through this world below. There is no sickness, toil nor danger, in that fair land to which I go. I’m going home, to see my mother, I’m going home, no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan, I am just going over home.”
Wilson Poe Sr. had been a little boy when the sickness swept through North Carolina. Born in 1912, he shared the story with Gragg when he was a much younger man, traveling through the Piedmont regions of North Carolina. Poe recalled in his whisper of a voice, how the soldiers had brought it back with them when they returned from the Spanish-American War. The sickness didn’t target the elderly or children, but rather, it killed the working-age population. Wilson’s head bowed deep in thought as he told of how he lost both his parents, all his Aunts and Uncles and all of his older brothers and sisters. The only family members that survived were him and his younger sister. They were forced to go live with their only surviving family members, their grandparents. Mr. Poe had been in his eighties when he told that story, somewhere around the mid-1990s. When old man Poe finally looked up from the floor, his eyes were rimmed with tears. He pointed to the bookshelf behind him to a framed image of a little boy and girl. Between them, oddly enough, stood a larger than a life-size doll. At that moment, through the open window, the evening sound of a Whippoorwill wafted into the room. Fletch could never erase the memory.
Someone had found the story in a magazine and recognized the name. They looked up Wilson and his family and were thrilled to have been able to connect with a living treasure, once only thought to have existed in the pages of a book. Wilson kept the photo as a memento of his survival.
The melody continued to play, “I know dark clouds will hover or me, I know my pathway is rough and steep, but golden fields lie out before me where weary eyes no more to weep. I’m going home to see my father; I’m going home no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan, I am just going over home.”
Poe said that some photographer who had been covering the pandemic, caught him and his sister standing alongside the road. Wilson remembered how they had watched in disbelief as wagon after wagon carried away the dead. Fletch could only shake his head as the knot swelled up in his throat when Wilson said that he and his sister had cried until there were no more tears left to cry.
Gragg’s footsteps carried him nearer to the shadows of the granite walls, where the river turns, and the mountain laurel grows thicker. He could almost hear the relics of the past echoing off those stone walls. “God has a purpose in all that we do,” he reminded himself as his thoughts continued.
Oddly enough, it was just as well that someone else had found the precious memory. Mr. Poe would have never been able to keep the picture himself. Struggles seemed to follow him all of his life, like the wagon of the dead. His house caught fire one cold winter night and burnt down. His family lost everything but their lives. Up in smoke went all of their earthly possessions, including the family photos.
Fletch stopped. He stood upon the water’s edge, as the shadows of darkness began to envelop the crystal-clear river before him. The remnants of the song concluded with, “I’ll soon be free from every trial; this form shall rest beneath the sod. I’ll drop the cross of self-denial and enter in that home with God. I’m going home to see my Savior; I’m going home no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan. I am just going over home.”
“Yes, this world must come to its senses, and lay down their cross of self-denial,” Fletch mused to himself. “Second Chronicles chapter seven says it the best,” he continued talking to the trees leaning toward the water’s edge as if they appeared to wait for the rest of his quote. “ If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Looking across the river, there was nothing but the cold, granite walls reaching up to the sky. Fletch closed his eyes as if to look beyond what was there, seeking something more profound than what was merely temporal. Dark wagons under thunderous skies rolled past him. The tears of sorrow blended with the rain, each flowing down his soaked body into the mud, which had swallowed his feet. The hushed tones of mournful cries seemed to leech into the grain of the wagon boards, filling the cracks until there was none. Etching the pain of ones being until there was nothing left to fear. The vision then looked to the sky, as if to ask God why. The swirling gray cauldron above looked like someone wringing their hands in tormented anguish. The flash of shadowed lightning turned his head to look away. Then came the answer in the form of a deep growl of distant thunder that shook the ground.
Somewhere nearby, the flash of a photographer taking a picture of two traumatized children standing near the roadway, caused him to flinch. It was as if mankind was trying to mimic the almighty power from above. Forever etched onto his monochrome plate was the form of two souls whose lives would never be the same; generation forever altered by the course of events, not of their own doing.
Gragg sucked in a deep breath as if he had just surfaced from beneath the water.
There before him was the stone walls covered in thick laurels. The darkness permeated evermore as the moon had already risen high above the horizon behind him. “This too shall pass,” he could hear his Granny tell the children as they would sit and listen to her tell them tales of yesteryear, always with giving the sense of comfort of one having survived worse times.
Fletch turned around to go back to his holler from whence he came. As he did, the Whippoorwill sang once more. Its cry echoed again off the canyon edifices bringing a chill up his spine. Up above the moonlight now lit his path and reflected golden rays across the silvery waters of the river nearby. Although some would fear the darkness, Fletch knew he wasn’t alone.
Many had survived worse times than these, and yes, many had gone on home to cross that river of Jordan to a far better place. Someday he would too.
The Whippoorwill called once more, and the voice echoed again, “This too shall pass.”
Thanks be to God.
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the LIght”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/