A Promise Fulfilled

“Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

These are the words of a man named Simeon who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue His people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He got his wish.

The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the very same day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord. How wonderful! God had fulfilled His promise to Simeon.

Simeon was overjoyed when he saw the Infant Savior. How his heart must have leapt with joy as he held Jesus in his arms and gazed down into that tiny face. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He said to Mary, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.”

For many of us, Jesus is the greatest joy. He brought us hope, love, peace and the promise of eternal life.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago” (Luke 1:68-70).

What a wonderful promise!  During the Christmas season, imagine what it must have been like for Simeon to see the Lord face to face and to realize that the Lord had kept him alive for just that moment.  Simeon had seen salvation.  He had seen the promise of eternal life before he died.  God had promised His people salvation and then He fulfilled that promise through His Son, Jesus.

christ-presented-to-simeon-at-the-temple-medium

Giulia

stone-in-the-wood

Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the odd shaped structure.  It was covered in moss.  Everything else seemed to fade into the background.  It reminded her of when she visited the Accademia Gallery and she saw Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Israel’s most beloved king, David.  Her eyes were fixated on the figure, moving towards it as if hypnotized.  The other works of art faded into insignificance.  She spent as long as she reasonably could, just admiring what for her was the masterpiece of masterpieces.  So engrossed was she in the art that she failed to notice the stranger who had been observing her.

He stood behind a tree, watching her now.   His face was pale–as if he were seeing a ghost.  He recalled the first time he saw her.  He had decided to visit Florence for the first time since he moved to Paris and was standing in the gallery, observing the other works of art while everyone gravitated to the statue of David.  He never could understand people’s fascination with it.  There were other greater sculptures and personally, he preferred Bernini’s David.  He was contemplating taking the train to Rome the following day and visiting the Galleria Borghese when she walked past him.  She didn’t notice him standing there just like now.  He felt the color drain from his face.  The resemblance was remarkable.  She looked so much like Giulia.

Giulia.  Twelve years had passed and yet, he still couldn’t come to terms with her death.  Every where he went, he imagined that he saw her.  His heart ached for her.  His life felt empty without her.  His mind and dreams were filled with her.  She haunted him.  His love for her was still strong and no passage of time seemed to quell it or diminish it.  Other women were interested in pursing a relationship with him but he put them off.  He couldn’t imagine himself being with anyone else.  Giulia was the only girl for him.  When they met, she was a slip of a girl.  Seventeen, with thick black hair that tumbled down her back ending at the small of her back.  Her eyes were tawny and framed by thick lashes.  Her lips were like pink pomegranates and just as sweet.  Everyday after school, she met him on the Ponte Vecchio.

He was much older than her but that didn’t seem to bother her.  She was as madly in love with him as he was with her.  He would have married her if–if she hadn’t fallen into the Arno River one evening.  They were supposed to meet but he was late.  When he finally showed up, the place was swarming with police and he learned that a girl had fallen into the river.  One witness said that the girl jumped into the river.  He refused to believe that it was suicide.

He later discovered that she was pregnant.  One of her friends said that she was afraid of what her parents would do if they found out.  They were strict Catholics.  That was what she was going to tell him that day when he was late.  He would have promised to marry her and take care of her and their child.  Why did she jump?  Was it out of desperation?  Did she think he wasn’t going to show up?  He never forgave himself for being late and a couple of weeks after her funeral, he packed up and left.  And now he was back.  And here he was watching a girl who bore a striking resemblance his beloved Giulia.

Suddenly she turned and she saw him.  Lips pursed, she marched over to him, her hair flapping about her shoulders.  She stopped a short distance from him.  “Why are you following me?” she demanded.

For a moment, he was at a loss for words.  “I’m not following you,” he denied.

“Then, why are you here?”

“It’s a public place,” he said.  “I was just walking through.”

“You were standing behind that tree watching me.  Why?”

“Well, you remind me of someone.”

“Do I really or is that one of your pick up lines?”

“You remind me of a girl I used to know.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died twelve years ago.  You look so much like her.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be heading home.”

“Don’t go, Giulia.”

“My name isn’t Giulia,” she informed him.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just that you remind me so much of her.  How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“She would have been twenty-nine.”

“Look, I really must be going.”

“Please, may I see you again?”

She shook her head.  “No.  And please don’t follow me any more.  I’m not Giulia.  She’s dead.  You need to move on.  Goodbye.”  She turned and walked briskly away.

He stood there watching her retreating figure.  She was right.  It was time to move on.  But how could he?  He couldn’t get over Giulia.  She was in his heart, his mind and in his blood.  He just couldn’t go on without her.  They say that time heals all wounds but that wasn’t true.  His weren’t healing.  The pain was as deep now as it was ten years ago.

Sinking to the ground, he buried his face in his hands.  “Oh, Giulia,” he whispered brokenly.   At the funeral, he had stood far from the mourners, not wanting anyone to see him, especially her parents.   After they left, he went to the grave and threw himself on it, sobbing, the pain overwhelming–like it was now.

After several minutes, he got up, dried his eyes in his sleeves and headed in the direction of the Arno River.  An hour later, they found his body.  The police said that suicide was “likely”.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Way-stone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Irene Morgan

Before Rosa Parks, there was Irene Morgan.

One muggy July morning in 1944, Irene Morgan, a young Seventh-day Adventist woman boarded a bus to Baltimore for a check-up following a miscarriage. About an hour or so out of Gloucester, a white couple boarded. The bus driver ordered Morgan and her seatmate to move. Morgan refused and prevented the woman next to her from giving up her seat, telling her to stay put. The woman was holding a baby. Faced with two passengers who refused to be intimidated the driver headed to the county jail.

A sheriff’s deputy came on board with a warrant for Morgan’s arrest. Morgan ripped the warrant and threw it out of the window, declaring that she hadn’t done anything wrong. The deputy grabbed her by the arm to pull her off the bus. Morgan kicked him in a very bad place because he had dared to touch her. Another deputy boarded the bus and was trying to put his hands on her to drag her off but she clawed at him, ripping his shirt. He threatened to use his nightstick, but that didn’t scare Morgan. She retorted, “We’ll whip each other.”

Morgan was fighting back because like the other passengers, she had paid her money and was sitting where she was supposed to sit. She wasn’t going to take this kind of treatment from anyone. She was dragged off the bus and thrown in jail. Her mother arrived an hour later and posted a hefty $500 bail to get her out of jail.

Morgan went to court where she pleaded guilty to the charge of resisting arrest and was fined $100 but she refused to plead guilty to violating Virginia’s segregation law. Her attorney argued that segregation laws unfairly impeded interstate commerce. He purposely did not make the moral argument that segregation laws were unfair under the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. His reasoning was that the Supreme Court wasn’t ready to take that argument. The case was significant in that what he and the defence were trying to do was break down segregation. Morgan was found guilty and fined $10.

Her arrest and $10 fine were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by a young NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice. He was also the main lawyer in the case of Brown vs The Board of Education. His appeal resulted in a landmark 1946 decision striking down Jim Crow segregation in interstate transportation. She inspired the first Freedom Ride in 1947, when 16 civil rights activists rode buses and trains through the South to test the law enunciated in Morgan v. Virginia. However, although the case was front-page news and Greyhound immediately ordered its drivers not to enforce segregation, change did not come overnight.

Morgan never heard the appeals argued on her behalf by the two NAACP lawyers: Marshall and William Hastie, the dean of Howard Law School, which was at the center of the civil rights struggle.

Morgan finally got the recognition that had eluded her for so long although that is not what she was after. Her friends and family say that her whole life was about doing right and good. Over the past five decades, Morgan has led a quiet but extraordinary life. For many years she ran her own business. She won a scholarship in a radio contest. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. She was awarded a master’s degree in Urban Studies at the age of 73.

She has continued to inspire her family. In Baltimore, she passed out petitions demanding an end to school segregation without letting anyone know who she was. She wrote to the Pope seeking his intervention in the case of a Haitian whose children had been barred from parochial school. She rescued a neighbourhood boy from a burning building. Every Thanksgiving she invites two homeless residents over for dinner and laundry.

Irene Morgan was a freedom fighter a nation nearly forgot but her story is a testimony of how God chose to use a young mother to shape the history of blacks in America. She was a woman who fought to right a wrong. She was a woman who said no to segregation, which in the South of 1944 was a bold and dangerous thing to do. She had defied the law because it was unjust. She was a woman who was fighting for her religious rights because in Christ there was no distinction between the races. She was fighting for her human rights because she was an upstanding citizen who was paying for a public service like everybody else and who deserved to be treated with dignity.

Like David, Irene Morgan faced her Goliath—the system. And like Moses, she delivered her people from bondage—segregation.

As Irene Morgan faced the ugliness of bigotry, one can almost imagine these words going through her mind, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me” (Psalm 138:7)

Irene Morgan remains a private woman, reserved and modest in an age when neither attribute is valued much. When Howard University wanted to award her an honorary doctorate, she declined, saying, “Oh, no, I didn’t earn it.”

The town where she had got on the bus was to honour her with a day called “A Homecoming for Irene Morgan”. Four scholarships were  to be established in her name.

In 2000 Morgan, who by then was in her 80s, was honored by Gloucester County, Virginia during its 350th anniversary celebration. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Morgan died on August 10, 2007, in Gloucester County at her daughter’s home. She was 90 years old.  Today we celebrate this woman who was an important predecessor to Rosa Parks in the successful fight to overturn segregation laws in the United States (Wikipedia).

“When something’s wrong, it’s wrong. It needs to be corrected.”

Irene Morgan