A happy homecoming, or The Case of the Missing Lawnmower

Transitioning home from my retreat at Saint John’s University, I had some fear the house would seem lonelier after the support and commotion of the abbey and campus. But it feels more like home than ever. It’s good to be surrounded by space Hal and I designed and renovated together, and that gleams with his art, including paintings of me. It’s like I’m being enveloped by his spirit.

Speaking of such, I’m sane enough now to start turning my attention to the nuts and bolts of maintaining the houses without Hal around to help (physically). Already mine was the most nagging task in the yards: mowing the lawns. Except that last summer, after our little electric push mower conked, Hal bought a fancier mower he ended up not letting me use. He feared it was too heavy for me to get up the slope in front of our house without an accident. It was heavy even for him, with his farmboy strength. He let out a growl if I even wandered near that mower.

Before I left for Minnesota I went out to the half of the garage we use as a yard shed to see if the mower was really that unwieldy. Hal’s spirit didn’t seem to object. When I got to the garage I understood why.

no mower

The lawnmower was gone.

I’d seen it in there not long ago, next to the snow thrower. What happened to it is a mystery and may remain so forever. The two likely scenarios are:

Hal couldn’t bear the thought of me trying to use that mower or another summer of handling it himself, so one of his last acts was to get rid of it, somewhere, somehow.


He left the garage door open and someone swiped it.

I view the first scenario as Hal still protecting me from beyond, and the second as God doing it on Hal’s behalf. Either way it’s joy.

Having awakened too early the last morning of my retreat, before I left Collegeville I searched for something to stream into the car radio to keep me alert on the road. I found the National Public Radio “Fresh Air” archive and selected an amazing interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, a former stand-up comic who’s morphed into a no-nonsense heavily-tattooed wisecracking rockstar Lutheran pastor. The segment was so great I spent most of the rest of the drive listening to fabulous sermons by Nadia and her co-pastors and successors at the countercultural congregation she founded in Denver, the House for All Sinners and Saints (acronym HFASS, pronounced “halfass”).

That six-hour drive turned out to be an extension and perfect end for my retreat. The sermons were funny, moving, and delightfully simple, befitting the message needed by a congregation heavily populated with the outsiders of society Jesus loved and too many contemporary so-called Christians (led by the president they elected) revel in persecuting: the addicted, the alien, the homeless, the sex-or-gender-different. Themes:

  • Grace is always there.
  • God is closest in suffering.
  • Joy comes in the morning.

When I got home the snow had melted and the grass on the front slope was starting to grow. Gotta find a light little mower. Easter is Sunday.

2 thoughts on “A happy homecoming, or The Case of the Missing Lawnmower

  1. I may have a line on an inexpensive used smaller mower for you. Message me on FB if you’re interested. And thanks for sharing this story; I enjoyed reading about this and your style of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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