From Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth, the story of a great flood and a terrible war.
In the preacher’s words the Heavenly City has risen up, surmounting their lives, the house, the town — the final hope, in which all the riddles and ends of the world are gathered, illuminated, and bound. This is the preacher’s hope, and he has moved to it alone, outside the claims of time and sorrow, by the motion of desire which he calls faith. In it, having invoked it and raised it up, he is free of the world. But it is this hope — this last simplifying rest-giving movement of the mind — Mat realizes he is not free, and never has been. He is doomed to hope in the world, in the bonds of his own love. He is doomed to take every chance and desperate hope of hope between him and death, Virgil’s, Margaret’s, his. His hope of Heaven must be the hope of a man bound to the world that his life is not ultimately futile or ultimately meaningless, a hope more burdening than despair.
The last words for Tom ain’t in the letter from the government, and they won’t be said by the preacher. They’ll be said by me and you and the rest of us when we talk about our old times and laugh about the good happenings. They won’t all be said as long as we live. I say that a man has got to deserve to speak of the life of another man and of the death of him. […]
‘Rest in peace’. That’s not the way these accounts are kept. We don’t rest in peace. The life of a good man who has died belongs to the people who cared about him, and ought to, and maybe itself is as much comfort as ought to be asked or offered. And surely the talk of a reunion in Heaven is thin comfort to people who need each other here as much as we do. I ain’t saying I don’t believe there’s a Heaven. I surely hope there is. That surely would pay off a lot of mortgages. But I do say it ain’t easy to believe. And even while I hope for it, I’ve got to admit I’d rather go to Port William.
Without boat or a light, what could he do to save Annie if she should, by whatever miracle it might be, answer him? And he damns himself, with a willingness that startles him, for turning the boat loose, for having taken no precaution to keep the matches dry. Taking the matches out of his pocket, he finds that the heads are either already gone, or they crumble as soon as he touches them to see if they are there. But he continues to take the dead sticks out of his pocket one at a time and to stand them upright inside the sweatband of his hat. It is though his mind, which like his body has begun to work apart from his will, is gambling that absurdity will be more bearable than reasonableness.