My father, Dr. Peacock, God rest his soul, was a healer.
I was in awe of him.
Brilliant, like Dr. Salk who conquered polio; handsome as Dr. Kildare; a doctor of fine arts: Salvador Dali etchings hung on his walls; a master of music: Mozart spun on his turntable. A gourmet, he insisted on lemon peel with his espresso and fresh oysters in the stuffing. A voracious reader of classics, art books, and avant-garde novels, his library runneth over. He was a tinkerer and a gardener who grew roses and azaleas in our back yard. In our basement, he built short wave radios and puttered at his workbench.
He was also more than a bit like Felix Unger. Everything had to be spit and polished and squeaky clean. Dr. Peacock was exceedingly dapper in his tweed sport coats and wing tip shoes. On his bathroom mirror. he pasted a label: “You, handsome devil you!” He bragged about getting 100% and acing his surgical boards.
Modest, he was not but he was marvelous in my eyes.
And when I was a child, I would pull wondrous instruments out of Dr. Peacock’s little black bag – the same things he would use to prod and poke us if we claimed we were too sick to go to school – the stethoscope to listen to your chest, tongue depressors to look down your throat, the little flashlight to peer into your ears, the little hammer to hit your knees. Invariably he would pronounce us well, prescribe two aspirin and send us off to school.
(No wonder, I won the perfect attendance ribbon – many years running at Holy Family School.)
And my father was our family’s avid protector. A surgeon conscious of all kinds of calamity, he took extraordinary measures to keep his family safe.
Long before seat belts were standard in American cars, my dad had “safety belts” installed in ours. If he discovered you were not wearing it, he would swear and pull over to the side of the road and go nowhere until we had buckled ourselves in.
Long before smoke detectors, my house had fire alarms and we quite literally had fire drills.
In a time when only banks were wired for burglary, so was our home in Hillcrest Heights.
In my house, we had no ashtrays. Smoking was forbidden– protecting us both from fire and from lung cancer.
Firearms – even BB guns — could not get through our front door. My dad, the surgeon had stitched up and lost too many young men on his operating table in Southeast D.C.
He wouldn’t even let us twirl sparklers on the Fourth of July – in case we might burn our little hands!
Does this remind you of your father? Or a grandfather? Or a step father – who stepped up when your own wasn’t there? Or a godfather – who guarded you under his wings?
Who loves you so much, that they would want to catch you before you fall – “lest you dash your foot upon a stone”?
Fathers, of course.
But even the best of fathers cannot save us from ourselves.
We fall, we scrape our knees, we crash the family car. We make bad choices, ingest things we shouldn’t, and head down the wrong path. We fail, we drop out of school, get in trouble with the law. Selfish and self – centered, we don’t realize the havoc we create in other’s lives. Quick to blame others but not ourselves.
Nor can even the best of fathers save us from the muck and the mire of this world.
Life itself is a risky business. The world is a dangerous place.
Every day, when we head out from home to work or school or wherever – we assume that we will return safe when the day is done.
We assume that everyone will stop at red lights.
We assume the food we eat is safe and the water we drink is free of lead.
We assume that everyone will follow “the rules” – whatever the rules may be.
And that the bad guys are all behind bars.
And we take for granted our safety and security and those who serve to protect us,
with a fatherly care (be they male or female).
We take for granted the safety and security in our own backyard.
Bad things happen in Manchester, London, Tehran, Aleppo,
And Lord almighty, even in Portland.
Not in Del Ray with the “Kindness” signs in everyone’s yard.
Not here on the baseball field,
Not here in our own backyards.
But it did. On Wednesday, June 14th it did. And all of our assumptions were shattered.
Even the Heavenly Father, God almighty, maker of heaven and earth, was not able to deliver us, this neighborhood of Del Ray, this city of Alexandria from violence, from danger, from fear.
At least not in the way, we would like God to.
To swoop down from heaven and make this all go away. To rescue us. To save us.
But as Christians, we believe in a God, a Heavenly Father who did not save his own Son. We believe in a God who did not rescue his own Son from the Cross.
There is no Deus ex Machina. There is no miraculous divine intervention.
But there is redemption.
Because out of fear, God brings forth courage. Out of pain, healing. Out of death, life. Out of suffering, joy.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
can bring out the father in all of us,
to reach out and care for one another,
look over and protect one another,
to love our neighbors as ourselves,
whoever our neighbors might be.
So, let us pay, today, this week, this month, to discern a way to turn this tragic story upside down – to turn it into a redemption story. And borrowing the words attributed to St. Francis:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not seek so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.