About 20 years ago in the town where I was living in Ohio, an amusing phenomenon was going on. Everywhere you looked, someone had a concrete goose sitting on their front porch. They were painted white, with an orange beak, and stood just about the size of a real goose. Now, the fun part was that people couldn’t just let them stand there naked. They dressed them. In fact there was a whole cottage industry of selling outfits for concrete geese. I used to think they were the silliest things, and often remarked about them to my parishioners. “Did you see the goose on the corner dressed like a pink flamingo?” “How ‘bout that goose dressed like Abraham Lincoln?” I thought it was a hoot.
Apparently, I had commented about them one too many times, because the people in my church concluded that I must like them. So, they surprised me and gave me one. It was wearing a blue and white gingham dress and a yellow straw hat. Because it was given in love, I felt compelled to put my new goose out in front my house. And of course, I had to dress it: like a pumpkin, a turkey, Santa, a leprechaun, an Easter bunny. When my daughter graduated from high school I bought a cap and gown for it to wear. In the summer it had a little Cleveland Indians uniform.
Well, this went on for a couple of years and then I got a call to serve at a church in North Carolina. I had no intention of bringing the goose with me. But there was a problem. The people of my new church and the ones from my old church got together and loaded the moving van for me. They were just about to close the door to the van when one of them shouted, “Oh, don’t forget the goose!” And on the truck it went. Oy!
So, I moved the goose to my new home in North Carolina, where people knew nothing of concrete geese. It embarrassed me, and I never once dressed it. It sat there naked on my porch for a couple of years until it was time for me to move to my new condo and I wasn’t about to move that goose with me. But do you have any idea how difficult it is to dispose of a concrete goose? I couldn’t lift it, and I certainly couldn’t throw it in the trash can. But I had a plan.
Next to my house there was a little wooded lot. So I dragged the goose into the trees and dug a deep hole. As I tipped the goose over, it dove head first into the earth. After I filled the hole in with dirt, I noticed that a little bit of the tail, maybe an inch or two, was poking up through the ground. I hadn’t dug deep enough. But that was it. I was done with the goose, and I left it like that.
I often think about that little white goose tail sticking up in the woods. I imagine someone tripping over it someday and wondering, “What the heck is that?” And maybe they’ll dig it up. It might be some archeologist years from now and she’ll wonder what one of those strange concrete images they found in the area formerly known as Ohio, is doing here 500 miles to the south. For the fact is, even though I tried to get rid of that darned goose, it’s still there. And now someone in the future will have to deal with.
This Sunday we celebrated All Saints at worship. As a part of our liturgy, we remember those who have died. But All Saints includes more than those who have gone before us. It’s a great procession that includes us. And it is a procession that continues; there are those who will come after us, too. What will we be leaving behind us for them? Will they be stumbling over the stuff we tried to cover up, but couldn’t? Will they be living on a sustainable planet? Will they be cleaning up our mess? Will they be further buried in the consumerism that consumes us? Will they try to solve the world’s problems through violence because that’s the only way we’ve taught them? Will they be fueled by hatred and fear? Or will they learn from us a better way, a way of compassion and understanding?
For those who come after me, I really hope that I can leave behind more than a concrete goose in the woods.