From far-out depths they come,
swell swelling swell,
'til cresting they salute the sky
and tumble towards sand that waits immemorially
to receive them.
Summer upon summer
we played there
while our species slid submarines
bigger than whales
into those depths
and children of fathers like you
rode waves to beaches
where met our clashing causes
and death met death as no ocean could devise.
Nor could any picnic on safe sands
take from our generation
our fear of beaches.
But you, on your own ridge of years,
taught me, beached and fearful of breakers,
to wade into them,
to turn and join their fling towards land.
Together we felt those last foamy energies
that bounded us playfully upon smooth sand
as though we belonged to both sea and shore.
I see you yet, riding that curved-up moving hill
assuring us your children
that, rightly ridden, the sea pushes safely to shore.
Your wave-riding done, I follow you still
with other generations bobbing behind—
I next, all of us beach-destined.
But you touched wave and beach
with father's love for boy.
I ride my time's wave now,
trusting still your trust:
"It moves towards home."
Donald W. Shriver Jr., president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, is the author of Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds. He was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia.