Jerry Martien: On the Passing unto Glory of Sister Carol Davis

At first we could barely hear it. Maybe through a crack in the walls. In the darkest night. Out on the bluest highway. At a rest stop in Kansas. Faintly from the open door of an ancient Mercedes limousine. The music coming. Strangely garbed people getting out. Later we helped them push-start the limo.

A music we didn’t know we were following till we got to the places it was coming from. A cabin in the woods. A shack on the slough. An old church about to be torn down. Empty storefronts of a dying lumber town. The alleys between. A town filling up with peculiar people and their peculiar needs. A place for food. A place for healing. A place for children and for the kind of people we’ve become. A place for poetry and music. The music getting louder. Coming this way.

Husband Pat Conlin and Carol Davis. Submitted photo

In slow motion as in a dream. Coming down H Street toward the Plaza. A parade of some kind. People in it singing words to the music. Like a march except the steps were dance steps. Like an army only its uniforms were a riot. The music some kind of insurrection. It had non-negotiable demands.

When the parade got to the Plaza the plan was to go around once and call it a day. But another parade came parading up from the bay and another from out of the hills. The little town overflowed with music and when the day ended and they were all supposed to go home they went on parading and dancing and singing.

The parade kept on going just as the authorities had warned it would. It showed no sign of stopping or even slowing down. But the thing people found out about parades is it takes a lot of work to keep them going. Children and animals and musicians have to be fed. New dance steps have to be invented. People have to learn them and make costumes and hats and have places to show them off. Then the children and animals and musicians have to be fed again.

The parade and the labor of keeping it going turned out to be necessary to the people’s survival. To be the essential work of human community as it has been for a zillion years. And that is why in every little town there have to be persons of great heart whose work is to keep the whole thing going. Who are themselves a restaurant and a theater and a school and a refuge for people like we’ve become. The music getting louder. The parade coming closer.

Till it’s here and we’re all in it. We’re in it and we’re moving together so when I trip and break my neck or you fall for some angel then someone steps in and picks up the flute or poem or drum and the music doesn’t end but only gets deeper and sweeter. And to those people of great heart are also blessedly given a great voice and maybe a tambourine and they are granted a place at the front of the parade and as we follow the music and voices going on ahead there among the saints we see Sister Carol Davis and if we listen we hear her singing.

O Lord this life is so precious and sweet and too soon gone by
& Lord what a blessing and wonder the music keeps it going.

Jerry Martien
Elk River