and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
March #5

Faith renewed by arrival of 'big banjo'
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Please clip this column and keep it in a safe place for me.

If, sometime in the future, anyone asks, I do not wish my body to be kept alive unless my brain is functioning. The way I see it, personally, is: My mind, my self. Not to mention my soul, which can always go on to other adventures.

As the stage manager in "Our Town" says, "everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal ... and that something has to do with human beings."

This week I downloaded a health care proxy form, which is now attached to my living will, which was long ago given to family and doctors with a clear message: When the time comes, let me get on with the eternal part.

I have a sweet story that would have been perfect for Easter if Easter came in April the way it's supposed to, so I'm sharing it anyway.

Last week my first ex-husband forwarded a family e-mail.

For background, you should know that Jack was able to get an annulment and marry a lovely Boston Catholic; they had three boys.

My son Lance has had a good relationship with his half-brothers. He and Jason, the oldest, who is married with a three-year-old son, have exchanged guardianship commitments. Should eternity come early for a set of parents, JD would go to Lance, and the twins would live with Jason. Everybody's planning ahead!

This is what Jason wrote to his parents.

"I need you to join me in prayer. ... woke up last week needing a banjo from the universe. It is a religious thing I think. It has to come from the universe, and it can't be paid for. Just need you all to think good thoughts about banjo arriving. I am not crazy. Love, Jason."

Jack responded that "Barbara will know that stuff... she has an eidetic memory..."

I did have an instant image of my late mother and quickly e-mailed back that if I could find mother's banjo I'd send it to Jason.

Jack e-mailed back that my mother played a ukelele. So much for eidetic.

Darn, I wanted to be Jason's banjo angel. I e-mailed him my regrets and he responded to both Jack and me that "the uke was very close. The vision I had was this ... playing banjo in the forest around a campfire and making lots of smiles. If it comes, I will believe there is a God."

I e-mailed back that Jason's Catholic parents would no doubt be searching swap shops for a free banjo to bring him back to the church. The next day I got this from him:

"The banjo arrived. Bought a homeless kid lunch at the Chinese buffet. He is from Branson, Missouri, site of the world's largest banjo and he sang for us afterward. Just gorgeous. Going to church on Sunday."

I asked for more information.

"In the past year and after death of a thrilled grandma (his wife's mother) 5 days before JD was born ... after the ensuing 4 miscarriages ... I lost any belief in God. I had a dream a couple of days ago where I was playing a banjo on a soft mossy rock and people are smiling. I have this feeling in the dream that my heart is very much alive and my soul is doing all the singing. Like there is this warm comforting energy coming out of my chest as I play.

"So I came up with this test for God/the universe. If a banjo shows up I will believe in God again. I e-mailed the family to pray for a banjo, and they thought it was funny, because it was. I have been teasing my wife about the banjo that is going to show up for days and she is so sick of it ... and thinks I have lost my mind.

"Today I go to lunch with a friend who works at a homeless mission. He comes into the restaurant to meet me first and asks if I mind buying a nice kid who is homeless lunch at the buffet ... and I meet Kenny. Really nice, quiet skinny gay kid. I ask him as we are eating where he is from and he says 'Branson, Missouri, the place where there is the biggest banjo in the world.'

"Turns out that Kenny is a great singer and he gives us a rendition outside of the (admittedly a dive) restaurant. It is the same music. I fought back tears and drove home just laughing my head off that this is how the banjo arrived. The 'biggest banjo in the world' arrived while I was eating at the Chinese buffet ..."

During our conversation, I mentioned that my grandson, with his big brown eyes and little hammer, could be the reincarnation of my father. Jason noted that his son has his departed grandma's eyes.

Another kind of immortality, another gift from the universe.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.