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March 11, 2004
Praying for my family in Madrid, a Morning Prayer partner writes.

I answer that I will pray, too. I have already emailed a friend from that city, who now lives in Florida. Her parents are older; I doubt if they were on a train when the bombings occurred. But she has a sister there. Who knows?

Eli Smith grew up in New York. He's in college in the Midwest now, but his parents still live here, in Battery Park City. His dad was in the World Trade Center almost every day. I called out to the college; the young person answering the phone in Ohio said that no, Eli wasn't there, but that his parents were okay.

So fast, all this reassurance. Not like in the old days, which were not so long ago. Nobody called home from Europe in the Second World War. You got a telegram for the missing or a visit from a pair of officers for the confirmed dead. Someone you loved might have been dead for months in the 18th century before you got a letter from the captain of his ship or a worn envelope from somebody else in his new town. And sometimes you just never heard anything at all: if the ship went down with all hands, if nobody at the factory knew her or where she was from. Good-bye must have meant more in those days. The likelihood that you might not meet again was real.

Good-bye: literally, God be with you. Our casual parting words speak succinctly: we are at risk when we are parted. It is not certain that we will meet again. Farewell, we say. Fare thee well. I wish for everything to be all right with you. Au revoir. Until we see each other again. We sense danger when we are parted. Because you really never know.

At St. Clement's -- and you definitely had to be there to appreciate this -- we always sang "Happy Trails" to people who were leaving. Those women who could would take Dale Evans' harmony, while everyone else stayed on the melody with Roy Rogers. We lacked only Trigger the horse to make it perfect, but it was pretty darn good.

Visitors would sit for a moment in surprise -- What on earth...? -- and then they would shake their heads and smile and join in softly. Good-bye. Happy trails. Until we meet again.

Don't know about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans? Don't remember "Happy Trails?" Go to
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