keep silent watch

There is often a mist of poetry to be found within common prose, a phrase that sings a melody, a line that beats with the rhythm of a metered verse, or a passage that somehow transcends its purpose and breaks the bonds of ordinary composition. Unintended though it may have been, somehow thoughts that lie within the heart and soul burst forth with such beauty that it takes your breath away.

Early in the year 1985 I found myself reading miscellaneous notes written by my mother. They were mostly thoughts and ideas that she had saved for a purpose yet to be determined and that now would never find the light of day for we had lost our parents on January 16th, 1985 in a terrible accident. As I perused the scraps of paper lying on her desk I came upon one sheet that appeared to be more than a momentary thought, more complete than most of the notes that I had found and it spoke to me of a love that cannot be measured and of a love that has become far too rare these days.

The hills and trees were fantastic. Everyone seemed to agree it was one of the most beautiful autumns ever. I wish I could put the color of the trees to paper. In that respect, the painter has an advantage over the writer. Still, I doubt if any painter ever put such color to canvas as the woods have displayed this year.

But even as the colors have faded, day by day, Nature’s other beauties take over. Most of the brilliant leaves are gone. The oak’s brown hangs on, like an old bag lady of the forest’s streets. The goldenrod has turned a fragile gray, each delicate clump hanging on a leafless stem. It snowed last Sunday, and every weed became a jewel, every tree a miracle.

The cedar below the yard was capped with snow, and its companion, a hickory, thrust its snow-tipped naked branches into a wintry sky. Someone suggested we should cut the cedar. Oh, no! The two of them seem bound together, supporting each other. During the summer and fall, the hickory stands out, first green with youth and then golden as the year ages, but in winter, the cedar, which has seemed unimportant all year, comes into its own. It gives us the green of hope all year. It promises that, come spring, those bare lined trees now unable to hide their nakedness, will again be clothed in splendor.

I keep harkening back to the beauty of the leaves this fall. Walking down the road, I felt like I was in a child’s paint box, with the colors splashing all around me. Even the oaks, which usually turn a deadly dull brown, this year, were a velvet burgundy, and every hill was aflame with red and gold.

Life is so peaceful here.

Nellie Ann Lanham

The hickory and the cedar still stand tall outside the windows of our parent’s country home. They keep silent watch over those who come to visit and remember. Three generations still come to stand silently and hear their voices whisper “I love you” as they have always done. They are bound together, supporting each other, loving each other for now and forever.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.


  1. Chuck
    I was so fortunate to have worked with your mother at the Monroe City News. What a great gift was her writing for the newspaper and the community. She and Juanita were always the voice of reason stopping me from publishing an editorial that I felt strongly about but shouldn’t see the light of day.
    Thank you so much for sharing Nellie Ann’s words. I too think of her and Bob often and miss them dearly.
    Mike Sell
    Former Editor & Publisher
    Monroe City News
    Monroe City, MO

  2. I remember well the subscription my parents got of the Monroe City News and each time I raced to see what my Aunt had written, she often used stories that pertained to her own family. I always felt like I was part of it and could relate to each article she wrote.

    She always made me welcomed and I printed these words you shared with us and it will forever hang on a wall somewhere in my home. Thanks cousin.

    Tim Lanham

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