The classic phrase is sic transit gloria mundi (thus passes the glory of the world) but somewhere in my mind I have the other. I was reminded of that this week when the news rolled in about the 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the epicenter of the quake was the spire atop the 103-year old Anglican cathedral. That spire, which used to be 100 feet above the ground before the quake, was on currency, stamps, and virtually every tourist poster and booklet about New Zealand. Some 700,000 people visited it every year.
And it may not be habitable any more.
Some years ago the U.S. Government hit upon a money-saving plan, which entailed giving every state a chance to have a quarter minted with whatever the state wanted to highlight as their state identity. The program was designed to introduce the coins at times staggered as to when the states entered the Union, beginning in 1999 and ending in 2008. I still have my collection of fifty quarters and that means that I have $12.50 worth of coinage that is out of circulation and is unlikely to ever be redeemed. Sort of like collecting stamps, where the Treasury gets the money for something never used. If even one million households followed my example, the government would save 12-million dollars.
Why do I mention that? Because the state of New Hampshire felt the most recognizable feature they had, which would be perfect for their coin, was a mountain that in profile was called “The Old Man of the Mountain”. Somewhere in the mid-sixties Mary and I saw the Old Man. My parents had dental friends who lived in Concord, and somewhere in our visit to see them, we passed the north face of the White Mountains at Franconia and the profile of the Old Man. Dorthea DeNault told us all the history surrounding him and, of course, every time we would drive to Vermont to ski, we would find a way to pass by to say hello.
The New Hampshire quarter was minted in 2000, sandwiched between two other 1788 Union-joiners, South Carolina and Virginia. Three years later, on May 3, 2003, the Old Man left. Weakened through time by ice, rain and other natural factors, heroic stabilization efforts proved insufficient to keep the face, and a 40-foot section slid down the granite mountain to become rubble. People were devastated and left flowers at the base as if the Old Man were alive and had died.
New Hampshire’s quarter may no longer be 100% accurate, but the imprinted state motto still remains, “Live Free or Die”, and the quirk of fate regarding the Face makes for good conversation.
I was raised not to become too attached to Things, as they will all eventually go away. Some would make a case that attachment to people inevitably results in the same disappointment. I disagree. This week I was at a memorial service for an 82-year old friend this. The service was conducted by a Rabbi, who made a very good point. He said, “Grief and love are joined at the hip. The depth of our grief reminds us of how much that person brought into our life. We do not grieve for those we do not love.”
I think that’s a good reminder. Would you agree?