We had a commencement at Healing House.
Previous ones had women with their stories of abuse, drugs, bad behavior and lost children — a downward spiral until they found God waiting at the bottom.
It was always heart-touching and Kleenex-clutching.
This time, it was two men. They, too, had a rough past with all its collateral damage from addiction to juice or okie-coke.
They, too, confronted a choice between a slow death and a harder journey to new life.
But these were guys, inked up ex-cons, supported by other prison alums hardened by life. Not one was a stranger to the darkness of crime, addiction and mean, selfish ways.
I thought all that macho history would put a damper on the choking up and breaking down. I was wrong.
Chris was a burly guy whose smile hinted at a heart of commensurate size. He couldn’t get through a Bible passage on forgiveness without a few sniffles.
By the time he described the unflinching tenacity of his tough-loving wife, he was engaged in a full-fledged monsoon.
Wading through the tears, he acknowledged the challenging kindness of his brothers in the program and the sisterly care of those in the women’s house.
Mike was Laurel to Chris’s Hardy. Short, slight and dapper in a Goodwill sort of way, he had a soul patch that quivered when he got close to the truth.
He told of the trials and triumphs of his healing year, of how God led him from a desert of self-destruction with the guidance of others who knew too well the paths of those lifeless sands.
As he teared up, others offered theirs in empathy and joy.
He said he had been incarcerated several times. “Four,” his aging mother specified, her presence a testament to her providential trust and prodigal love for her son.
A resident of the women’s house and a generational victim of drugs, his daughter wept her way through words of tenderness and pride. Now the man she wanted him to be, she promised to follow in his footsteps a second time.
The only dry eyes in the house were those cried out.
Days later, I saw an old Bergman movie, “Autumn Sonata.” Rejecting suicide, Eva says, “There is a kind of mercy after all. I mean the enormous opportunity to take care of each other, to help each other, to show affection.”
Maybe tears are the only way we can acknowledge the sheer beauty of that?