July 12, 2018

every wave that came

I decided that instead of waiting for years to listen to Kate's latest album, Damn Sure Blue, I would put it into my car CD player immediately and savor one song at a time.  Now I'm stuck on track seven, Sally Maxcy.  I'm gripped by the story, taken from "A history of the town of Union" by John Sibley.  Found treasure.

Sally Maxcy lost her mother and sisters in May of 1793 (less than two years after the death of her father) when their boat tipped over while sailing home from Union, Maine, where she had traveled to bury her best friend.  (Union was formed by settlers from Attleborough, Massachusetts.)

The boat filled with water and turned over repeatedly as she tried to grip it.  Once she sank, but the weight of her clothing was kept in check by the buoyancy of her skirts.  She was one of three survivors.  The other two grabbed the far side of the boat as she made one last attempt to gain purchase, and between them they stopped its spinning in the water.

Her story is told through a letter her son found, written to Sally's uncle shortly after the incident.  As she wrote, she was staring at her sister Lydia's corpse, washed up on the shore and recovered, laid out.  Lydia was a year younger than Sally.  I wonder if the candlelight made it seem as though Sally was staring at herself.

Kate arranges the letter into lyrics that masterfully capture the conflict between providential theology and survivor's guilt.  Sally closed her letter with two lines:

"Though distant graves divide our dust
Yet pray the lord our souls may meet among the just"

This sounds so much like the prayer my mother had me repeat every night while she stood in the door frame of my bedroom:

"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take"

Sing-song words that a child could not see had origins in darker times, empty cradles, small graves.

Sally Maxcy lived to be eighty-eight.

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