I had planned to write an ongoing series of blog posts while on pilgrimage to mark the 50th anniversary of Jon's death in Hayneville, AL. It just wasn't possible, primarily due to fatigue. Walking, talking with many different people and a ton of mixed feelings bombarded me for the 2 1/2 weeks that we were gone.
There were little things like a savaged tire before we even arrived in Birmingham. Then there were the larger things, such as visiting with the survivors of Jon's death who had never quite all met together to process their feelings. It was such a combination of mixed emotions that it will take time for me to engage this 'happening' of events.
I am both grateful for the combination of events that Judy and I participated in throughout August but I am still mystified by the grief, anger and deep sadness that still hovers around the life and death of Jon Daniels.
Since Judy Upham, my spouse, was the companion of Jon in the spring of 1965 when they marched in Selma at the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, it was a foregone conclusion that we would mark the 50th anniversary. But due to a fall in January we were uncertain if we would be able to. Then we learned of a guided pilgrimage by our seminary to mark the 50th anniversary of Jon's martyrdom. It would begin Aug.12th in
Birmingham and end with an actual walking through the events in Hayneville, AL. Judy and I had wanted to ride on the bus with the rest of the pilgrims and initially we did; however logistics required that we drive part of the way so that when the pilgrimage was over we could drive back to Selma on Sunday to attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the parish that had initially denied entrance to the marchers in 1965.
In addition to the pilgrimage, Judy and I were invited to speak in Detroit as a way to mark the feast of Jon Daniels by a former classmate, the Rev. Ron Spann, at St. James, Grosse Pointe. And
we were also invited to the Jonathan Daniel Day celebration Aug. 21-24 in Keene, NH, Jon's hometown. We then flew back to Birmingham, picked up the car and drove home. All in all, it was a true saturation in the life, death and inspiration of Jonathan Daniels.
As with all spiritual journeys, pilgrimage is sacramental. The outward actions of movement are often the sign of something very powerful going on the soul, or whatever part of the human experience that is touched by the Holy. This was no mere aping of what the saint had done. This was the kind of transformative event that can be recognized as a 'mountain top experience', but without the euphoria. It was and still is, for me, a time in my life that will continue to demand my attention and my growth in so many different areas in my life. It touches the interior but it requires so much exterior change as well as interior change for me to find the balance that I know that God calls righteousness.
Now that I am released from the 'silence' that was demanded of me the past year by those frightened of the truth, I plan to write on the various points that touched me along the pilgrimage. They will range from Jim Crow to hummingbirds to white privilege. I will
group them under the heading of The Selma Tales not because they all have to do with Selma, AL but because they touch me because of Jon Daniels, Judy Upham, Ruby Sales, Richard Morrisroe, Gloria House and Jimmy Rogers, fellow pilgrims, the people of Keene, NH and some of the people of AL we met along the way.
Most of these points are as much of an attempt to process what has happened in my heart over the past month. Like all extroverts, I need to 'discuss' what I saw or felt to make them real for me. Some are incidents that need to be understood so I can let go of them.
Some are precious to be treasured. Richard Morrisroe, the Catholic priest who was shot with Jonathan made a statement that sticks with me: "I knew Jon for 9 days in life and for 50 years in death." It is true with me. I have known him for almost 40 years in death, but I have seen his life lived out in others and that is what sainthood is about. So I continue my pilgrimage, the same one that follows in the footsteps of Christ.