Skip to main content

evangeline


evangeline  it is a word that comes from the latin "evangelium," which means 'gospel.'  literally, though, it is a combination of the words "good" and "news."

good news.

evangeline is also the name of an epic poem by henry wadsworth longfellow, published in 1847.  sometime in late 1996 or early 1997, i bought a beautiful copy of the poem, in hardcover, in a little curiosity store north of pittsburgh.  i had a plan.

i was already planning on asking shannon, whom i had courted with reckless abandon, to marry me.  we were going to go to pittsburgh to see a production of les miserables, and i told her that my parents had won tickets and weren't able to attend.  i planned to take her to a fancy restaurant on mt. washington, attend the show, then head back up the incline, where i would ask her to marry me.  i knew that if she said yes, it would mean about 14 months of engagement, and i had a sense that i wanted to keep a log of that time somehow.  and so it occurred to me to buy an old book, and to use it as a kind of journal, leading up to our engagement, and then documenting the months of our journey towards marriage.  i would write in the margins, in between lines, and anywhere i could fit my words.  i would color and glue and just use the book as an engagement record, one that we could always keep and look back on.

and so i began.

i wrote my plans as we headed towards april.  i wrote in it the night we returned from pittsburgh, a new diamond ring on shannon's hand.  i remember feeling like i wanted to scream out to the world that she said yes.  i knew that she would, but i had no idea just how amazing it would feel to hear her say it; to feel her affirm our relationship with that one word.  i wrote about it in the pages of evangeline.  and i kept writing.  through the rest of the school year, the whole next year, and, then, as i moved to new jersey in june of 1998.  i let the painful separation fuel my writing, and i wrote with intensity.  all through that summer i wrote, until the hot new jersey days faded into fall, and i continued to write.  december arrived, and with it, plans to drive home to pittsburgh for a few days, and then to central pennsylvania to visit my fiancee.  i kept writing.

as i drove in my little 1985 ford tempo, from west newton, pa towards warriors mark, my engine caught fire.  as i sped down the pa turnpike, black smoke starting pouring out of the hood, until it was hard to see.  so i pulled over.  immediately a trucker pulled over, also, and began to help me try and extinguish the fire, but it only got worse.  the police soon arrived, and demanded that i move away from the car, in case the fuel line were to ignite and cause an explosion.  so i walked away, watching my car burn from a distance.  of course it was painful to watch my car burn, but what was even more painful was the knowledge that our engagement journal, evangeline, that good news, was burning, too.  all those words....all that emotion...all that energy consumed by flame and reduced to ash.  sigh.

soon the firefighters arrived and doused my car in heavy amounts of water.  the flames were extinguished but the damage had been done.  my car was a skeleton.  everything in it was destroyed, except for the contents of the trunk.  they were soaking wet, and heavily damaged by the smoke, but they had not burned.

evangeline had been in the trunk.


it was charred, and soaked, but not destroyed.  still, i was distraught.  ink had run.  parts of pages had been singed off.  it felt ruined, but, i was determined not to let it be.  so i wrote the story of the fire, found another copy of the book, and kept writing.  i presented it to her on the night of our wedding as a wedding gift, complete with the story of its amazing journey.  it had moved, burned, survived, and grown into a two-volume set, but it was still good news; it was still the story of our love.





i am thinking of this because i recently came across the old crumbling copy of evangeline.  i was flipping through the pages, reading the record of my intense feelings.  i was so young, so consumed by love, and so desperate to be with her.  while we were apart during our engagement, i studied every detail of my memories, of my pictures of her, and of her handwriting in her letters to me.  i wrote fervently, with a kind of emotional frenzy that is difficult to sustain.  but the goal of finally being able to be together all the time compelled and inspired me, and kept me writing.

as i flipped through those pages, reading words that are now some 17 years old, i was reminded in a powerful way of what a blessed man i am.  to be able to live daily and fully with the object of my affection.  i am blessed to share my air with this woman who so completely enchanted and enraptured me.  i am blessed to feel the heat from her body as we sleep together each night.  i am blessed to hear her breath, to feel the rise and fall of her lungs as i wrap her in my arms.  i am blessed to see her smile and her grace in our children.  i am blessed with good news:  love.  truly it is a kind of evangeline.  we have had our share of fires, to be sure, and some were enough to cause some damage.  but in the end, the story remains.  the memories become part of the gospel of our love, and i am so blessed to be in it.  this year will mark our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and i just want to shout it out to the world yet again, like an evangelist who cannot keep it in:

SHE SAID YES!!!

Comments

Mary said…
beautiful.
thank you!
Galen Goodwin said…
Ah, your ability to express beauty still goes on! Thanks for your reflections along life's journey.
Galen
Galen Goodwin said…
Ah, you still have such great ability to express the beauty and wonder of life. Thanks for your reflections along the journey.
Galen
Galen, thank you...thank you! thanks for reading, and for being both a sojourner and a mentor.
fullofjoyalways said…
What a beautiful, creative, and moving way to express your love to Shannon! Thank you so much for a peek into your love. Robert and I also will celebrate 15 years of marriage the end of May. May Shannon and you be continuously blessed by God. Happy Anniversary! Kim Wecht
Kim, thank you for the kind words! may you and Robert also be richly blessed as you begin your 16th year of marriage!

Popular posts from this blog

#thoughtsandprayers

i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: 
It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an em…

a divided tree

there is a tree in my back yard.  i'm pretty sure it's an oak tree.  at least that's what i think Shannon told me.  i don't know my oaks from my maples, my elms from my locusts.  to me, it's a tree: a corinthian column bursting up into life and glory.  full of sap and pulp and rings and bugs and cells pulsing with water and always reaching for something.  it is full of rhythm, reach and flourish then fall and die, and repeat. 

this particular tree, though, isn't of one mind. 

half of it's rusted orange leaves have given up their grip and surrendered -gracefully or not - to the pull of gravity and the threat of winter.  the north side of this inauspicious oak is just about bare naked, all sticks and straight lines, a skeleton of itself.  but the side that looks south is stubbornly resisting change.  no longer green, the leaves have compromised their summer vibrancy, but they are clearly not ready to concede death just yet. 

i feel like i can relate to this …

vote. and pray. but do not be afraid (the King is alive).

i'm not sure how many americans right now are feeling optimistic about the government.  i know i'm not.  in fact, while i didn't live through the civil war or anything, i have to think that faith in our elected leaders - indeed the whole system of electing them in the first place - is at one of its lowest points.  i just don't have a great deal of confidence in those individuals who have been elected, or in those who want to be.  i find myself slipping at times into what feels like a swamp of apathy: sinking, to be sure, but not sure that i care enough anymore to do much about it.  i see this attitude all around me: in conversations, on social media, and in popular culture.  perhaps there is no more clear indication of our nation's view of the government than this current election season, when we would teeter on electing liars and thieves, crooks and clowns. 

which is why i was so startled as i sat down to read psalm 72 this morning. as i read the ancient song, i…