A ruined shirt

“Rend your hearts, not your garments.”

And yet it is my shirt I tear. I poke one of my work keys through the sheer cotton and then I pull hard with both hands. I watch threads tear and a hole open in the fabric. I open this hole because I cannot yet open the wound that silently tears through my heart.

The tearing of clothing was introduced to me by a wonderful rabbi who taught Hebrew scriptures in my pastoral ministry certificate program. It is Jewish tradition, a sign of sorrow, repentance, atonement. The rabbi told the story of his father’s death, how he ripped an elegant dress shirt when he heard the news. The image of that gesture stayed with me. When Pope John Paul II passed away, I ripped the sleeve of my knit cotton shirt. Today, in honor of my good friend Brett, my Play Brother, I rend both garment and heart.

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