Rest in Peace, Walter Bryant Jan 20, 1947 – March 5, 2012
This posting was originally written for my friend, Walter Bryant. I have just heard that he died this morning around 6 am.
Two days before he died, on Saturday, I had the great joy and honor of making a pilgrimage to St. David Emmauel Episcopal Church, the Church that Walter and we have gone to, most every Sunday morning for the past 6 years or so, with Walter’s sister Ella, her husband, his sister Jackie and a sister-in-law. The reason for this pilgrimage was so that they could see the Station of the Cross VIII that Walter and Alison Lot made about three years ago.
“I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.” Sachel Page
When I saw this card at Bartell’s Drug…of all places, I was rather sure that Walter would like it. So, while baseball holds a sacred place in his life, we see each other Sunday mornings at the 8:00 Service a.m, at St. David Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Walter always remembers our birthdays, both mine and my husbands. And he gives us a card, usually that Sunday, right there in church. If we are gone that week, he either brings it a week later, or sometimes mails it. He does not forget.
Since Walter’s BD is January 20, his birthday was on Inauguration Day last year. And, Walter is an African-American for whom that day held and continues to hold tremendous meaning. He began wearing a “1.20.09 pin” on his impeccable, elegant coats, and suit jackets within days of the election.
Without telling a story that is not mine, and which I have no right to tell, suffice it to say, that Walter’s life has not been exactly easy; but it certainly is in an amazing place now that he is in his 60’s. Among the many things that Walter takes on, is his huge baseball card collection. A real one, with hundreds of thousands of cards, all catalogued, and worth no small amount of money. (If, he were willing to sell! He isn’t. At least, not now.)
I forgot Walter’s birthday this year. But he did not forget mine, nor my husbands. So, two weeks ago I decided that even if I had missed the actual date, I wanted to give Walter a card simply because both of us treasure Walter. Even if the sermon were to be horrible, which it isn’t; or something happened to mess up the Eucharist, the honor of sitting in the row behind Walter, as we have done now for something like five years, is one of those things which have no price. You can’t buy that kind authenticity, joy, reality, and courage. And, we are privileged to sit by him each week that we are in town and get to Church.
Two of Walter’s contributions to the life of our little worshipping community are the way he says the Lord’s Prayer and the way he reads the Epistle, most Sundays. Not wanting to be rude, and tell Jesus what to do, he adds “Please” before both of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer about…”Please, deliver us from evil” and “Please, forgive us our trespasses…” The rest of us in this service of 6-10 people, have become accustomed to Walter’s Liturgical innovations, and some how, come to love it.
His other remarkable gift is the way he reads the Epistle. He reads with a freshness that exposes fully the fact that he actually believes what he is reading. And every once in a while, both he and we cry when he reads, because that story and Good News that he reads is why and how he is alive today, rather than dead.
The card isn’t just a card with a text, it is one of those cards that has the small “chip” inside and plays music. Or rather, I thought that it played music, since that is what most “sound cards” do. This one, however, does not play music. Instead it plays what is far more appropriate to Walter…it plays the unmistakable roar of a crowd at a baseball game, cheering with delight, and life. And, in this case, the roar is for Walter.
The whole card was most appropriate for him…Sachel Page, baseball, crowd roar…but the thing he liked the most, was the grammar — “I ain’t ever had a job…” It is a grammar of connection to all of his past, and now between those of us who know about this card and the links that it builds.
To see Sachel page…. ==> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4y9ml7VhlY