Passage making

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My younger brother took the picture of this sailboat when my siblings and I spent two weeks with my dad on an island in the Stockholm archipelago a few years ago. The picture captures all the grace and beauty and marvel of a vessel under sail. I have been out sailing when wind conditions were like this and our good vessel Promise sliced effortlessly through the water; the blue of the Gulf Stream off Fort Lauderdale was infinitely indigo blue in the sun. It is glorious.

To get out to the big water from our home on a canal in SoFla, Sherod and I would steer Promise through the New River, an urban version of river, a version that is cornered and hemmed in by seawalls and criss-crossed with drawbridges. Often too, I’d sit in my car at stoplights on Davie, on Andrews Avenue, on 3rd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, when a bridge went up to allow boats through. Because the river was so hemmed in and sailboats shared space with enormous yachts and power boats, they made their passage through with gallant awkwardness, bobbing and tilting, masts naked and exposed. Next to the shiny, sleek powerboats, sailboats looked nothing so much as well-intentioned tubs floating down river.

When Sherod and I would make that passage, there was always that small thread of anxiety that weaves its way through the body as you hope your muscle memory still works and your reflexes are sharp enough if a wake is unexpectedly strong or a current catches your bow just so. But it also didn’t matter a bit that we bobbed and weren’t as fast, or as big or as beautiful as others sharing the waterway with us. There was the thrill of anticipation that past Port Everglades, I’d steer into the wind, Sherod would raise the mainsail, give me a point of sail and fabric that had been flapping uselessly would begin to tighten and fill enough to cut the motor off and take flight.

Today, it is I who am a somewhat ungainly, but seaworthy vessel that has left port. When our previous rector left Ascension, I knew I would need to carry my work lightly, that a new rector might want someone else to work alongside him or her. Then I began to face into the reality of how I found myself being tugged and pulled by tides and wakes, and by the certainty that being at port no longer felt right. A few weeks ago the lines began to loosen. The rector of a parish in Montgomery that has seen its fair share of hardship and is in a neighborhood that was once upscale and is now a boulevard across from urban blight, announced his resignation. I made some inquiries about what would come next and realized I could and should ask to be considered when they started looking for an interim. I was told it would be a 1-year assignment, that normally the Bishop does not allow an interim to stay on as rector. It was scary to let go of Ascension for something that felt so fragile and temporary. But it also was wonderful letting go of some comfort in exchange for adventure.

Two weeks ago, I began a conversation with the leadership group assigned to fill the interim position. The conversation was lively. The tug was there, even stronger. A week ago Sunday we met, this time face to face. The conversation continued and ran long, still lively, still intriguing. I had made my peace with the fact that all I could expect to have was a year of interim work. Not a lot of time, but enough to start figuring the next step to take after that. As the second conversation wrapped up, a heart-stopping surprise: the Senior Warden had found out that there was an alternative to the route we were discussing. The discernment team could choose instead to go with a longer term assignment for someone to serve as priest-in-charge. Over an 18 month or so assignment they and the priest-in-charge would then decide whether or not to convert the position to a tenured rectorship. Somewhat awkwardly, we felt that possibility out with each other and I drove home trying to manage my sense of elation.

This past Sunday, the vestry at Holy Comforter met and unanimously agreed to call me as their priest-in-charge. Yesterday, the senior warden called to extend the call and I accepted. Announcements are going out. Calendars and schedules are being revised.

The passage has begun.

There are currents to navigate; some of them run swift. We are all moving in some pretty tight spaces, finding our way around each other, making sure not to leave anyone bobbing in an unnecessary wake. I am making my path out to the big waters. It’s not just that I feel awkward and and vulnerable, along with elated. It’s that I look ahead, beyond the passage out from this place I have made my church home for three years, and find myself repeating the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer over and over again: Oh God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small…

Life begins again

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Tux with red bow with Sherod

I was Daisy’s human companion and she was my friend in a way I had not experienced before. There were always  dogs in my parents’ home and dogs in Sherod’s and my home—it’s just that They were always “Sherod’s dog”, or my mom’s or my dad’s.  I went looking for Daisy and when we found each other, even though there were other people inhabiting our house, I was hers and she was mine in a deep, unshakeable sense and I never stopped being awed by her joy when I came home after work or after a trip or outing.  I cannot count the number of times she slept on my lap while I read or sewed or watched TV.  The list goes on.  I was already over 50 when I became the human companion of a dog and I never took the grace of that life and presence in my life for granted.  When grief visits these days, and I miss my girl terribly, I remember what unanticipated joy she brought.

Almost as soon as she died, I realized how much having that companionship had meant to me—how much I needed it.  I set out to find a new friend to welcome into my life, not because I was ‘over’ my Daisy or needed a replacement, but because Daisy made my heart bigger and gave me more space to love and care.  Along with some measure of guilt because I decided I would try to find a Miniature Schnauzer puppy, rather than an adult rescue dog, I also accepted about myself that there has been a lot of loss and there is probably a lot of loss ahead for me as well. My heart yearned for the kind of new beginning that tending to a young creature entails.

I found a few people who were neither breeding ‘high end’ trophy dogs nor were puppy mills and plotted a plan to visit a few with the aim of bringing home a little one in the fall.  The first place was in the northern part of Alabama and on an early Saturday morning, my dad, one of my dearest friends, and I piled in my car and headed up the road.  When we arrived, we were met by Miss Doris, one of those stern, stoic country women who live a hard life and aren’t easily impressed by much of anything.  But the dogs she had were lively and well cared for; one looked just like my Daisy, and the place was clean.  When she was with her dogs, she melted and spoke so sweetly and kindly to them that it was obvious it was these beautiful creatures that she could connect with much more easily than us.

She had a dame with a litter that would be ready to get released around the time I had been planning to bring a puppy home.  But there was one little girl sitting in a separate area, looking both forlorn and curious.  She was the last of a litter and had been reserved by someone who refused to take her home, demanded her money be returned because she had wanted a completely black pup.  This one had white paws and a flame on her chest so she was not good enough.  My dad, my friend and I took turns holding her and there was no doubt for me. I called Sherod to ask what he would think of me bringing a puppy home that day and he just laughed. He said, “I knew you’d get one today. Come on home and bring her.” As we walked back to the office area to do the paperwork, Miss Doris held this 8 week old in her hands, rubbing on her head and saying, “I told you you were going to have your very own family.”  I am struck that she, like Daisy, and even like Luz Maria, came to us because others would or could not have her.  

There’s quite a bit of accommodating that goes one to make room for a puppy.  She’s at the place where she wants to chew everything; sometimes we let too much time go by before letting her out to do her business and we’ll find a little puddle of piddle.  A few times its been more than just that.  The first time she saw her ‘big brother, Mo’, she yelled like a banshee and her heart raced against the hand I held her in. Mo too had a hard time with her at first. though now they play in the morning and evening until they wear each other out.  I’ve been able to take her to work at least a couple of times a week where she naps draped across my foot a lot of the time . When I have to go do something, someone else on the staff watches her or I put her in a doggie play pen I got for her, along with the squeaky toys she adores.  

This past year has been a time of huge shifts underfoot for me, with the departure of the rector who hired me to serve as the associate rector at Ascension. The shifts continue and there is very little clarity about what lies ahead.  Associate rectors in particular, are called to hold their jobs very lightly in this kind of transition.  It’s not a comfortable, easy place to be.  And all that finds its proper place in my life when my new girl, Tux (short for Tuxedo) has worn her little self out and settles against me, puppy breath and tiny grunts included, for a rest. She reminds me that I have been most blessed by allowing myself to have and hold what others had passed over, as well as to let go of the scripts I come up with for how the path ahead should look. 

With her, life begins again.

My Sweet Daisy

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Three Sweet Friends: Daisy, Spot and Boo

A few months ago, I was getting ready to crawl in bed and looked over at my sweet Daisy. In 2011, she was four years old and had been relinquished by her human, a woman who had just gotten divorced, gotten sole custody of her 3 children and then gotten laid off.  Daisy was in a rescue program and I was looking for a schnauzer to adopt. My parents had had wonderful schnauzers for several years and I had fallen in love with the breed.  She and I bonded almost immediately; Daisy was always anxious when I left, and so relieved when I came home, that she zoomed around the house barking and yapping before jumping on a chair to greet me and demand some love and attention. For a while, when I was traveling a lot, she’s wail when I pulled out a suitcase to pack for another trip.

On that particular night before I got in bed, Daisy had already setttled in her little bed next to my side of Sherod’s and my bed.  She looked small and as adorable as ever so she melted my heart and made it clutch for an instant. I knew she was 11 now, an aging dog, like her aging person.  I got down next to her, rubbed behind her ears and thanked her for the joy.  Just about every night after that, it became our little ritual.  I did not want to take for granted that she was in my life.

More recently, I started doing cross stitch work again and Daisy would jump up on the recliner, settle on my lap and take naps while I worked.  As with Sherod, she brought the most extravagant kind of grace through the simplicity of her companionship; in those moments too, I was grateful, mindful that life goes by and we miss so many of the things that really matter if we don’t pay attention.

The dogs took much longer than usual to stir this morning. When it was time to get up, so they could have their breakfast, and I my coffee, while Sherod slept in a little longer, Daisy seemed to struggle.  Instead of the little trot that had always been the essence of her peppy self, she walked slowly to her bowl, looked at it and then went and got on her favorite chair to rest.  I threw on my clergy clothes and found an emergency clinic for animals in Montgomery.  At 6:30, I was flying down the road to take her. I hoped I’d have enough time to find out what was going on before I had to do my church stuff.  When I checked her in, they told me it would be a while before they could actually examine her and they’d call me as soon as they knew something, so I went on to church.  At 9:30, they called to say her liver was riddled with cancer, she hardly had any platelets left, and was starting to bleed internally.  About an hour later, after a quiet visit, where I got to say thank you one more time and hold her in my lap, a kind, gentle woman vet euthanized her while Daisy leaned against me, the two of us together to the end.  

Not long ago, one of my dad’s dogs was really sick, so sick we thought she might die that day; Sherod had used his tractor to open a small grave.  I brought home my sweet girl and it was the harshest and most beautiful kind of grace to get to carry her body out through the garden I think she always saw as a smorgasbord of cat poop, into the pasture, past Jack one of our resident horses, and to the place where I could kneel down and gently lay her to rest. This was the biscuit princess of the universe so I put one of the biscuits she adored in for the journey. The sun beat down on me on this brutally hot and humid Alabama day, but I was so extraordinarily glad to get to bury her, shoveling the red Alabama dirt that stained her paws after four years of making this piece of paradise her home.  When Sherod got home, he used the tractor to push some more dirt over her grave and tamp it down so she will truly get to rest in peace.

She, Spot, and Boo, the three Bandidos, comforted and healed me through the heartbreaking first weeks after I left my ministry and daughter in Southeast Florida. The other two had already gone ahead of her–Boo in 2014, Spot at the beginning of this year.  They’re calling for storms today and this evening out here in Lowndes County so I may not get to see the stars.  But this I know: tonight, God will be out there with that extraordinary little girl dog Daisy. Daisy will run and fetch stars with her Creator, and  Boo, and Spot, and Polly.  I can almost hear those little feet trotting back to God, ears perked up at attention, and her eyes shining with joy. Once again, no, not just tonight, but always, I will give thanks with a grateful heart.

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Is that me you’re talking to?

A Story in two parts

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Part I

Setting:a pole barn in Alabama full of good stuff for hidey holes but it is hot as forty hades…

Lil’bit:              Giiiiiiilbert. I have been missing you sooooooo much.

Gilbert:           Yeah, well kid, it’s hot in here and I’ve been busy.  Just got back from my afternoon constitutional with that old man, his dogs and Sunny.  What’s happening?

Lil’bit:              I’m bored and I’m lonely and that human that brings me food scares me

Gilbert:            Listen, come with me.

The two make their way from the pole barn to a small building close by. A shop—real guy’s space with fishing poles and exotic saws, shelves almost to the roof with all kinds of hidey-hole potential, too. The big cat shows the kitten how to use the cat door.

Lil’bit:              Wooooooowie zoot, what is this place?

Gilbert:            It’s where the air-conditioning is. And food. And water. And stuff to play with. It’s where Sunny and I take our siestas and where we sleep at night. You can stay here if you want

Lil’bit:              Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, I love it here already

Gilbert:            Take it easy kid—no need to jump on me like that…

Meanwhile back in the farm house, there is great sorrow weighing down like so sacks  of rocks. The humans have not seen a little feral kitten that showed up a couple of weeks ago.  Did a hawk get him? Were the coyotes by for a visit? What happened? Should they have trapped him and forced him into safer space? They sigh.

Part II

The next day, in the same farmhouse, there is great rejoicing under heaven for one who was lost has now been found. Sure, he’s knocked over some human stuff in the human’s workshop but all of it can be picked up and put back up. What matters is lil’bit’s alive, and in a far safer place than the barn. Lil’bit and Gilbert are rolling around in the sawdust when the woman human comes in and puts some food in the dishes.

Gilbert:           Hey kiddo—it is not polite to try to push me so you can eat with me. There’s another dish right there.

Lil’bit:              But I want to eat with you. It tastes better like that. And I like how you are rubbing behind my ears, and grooming my back. OOOhhhh, keep scratching that feels soooo gooooooood.

Gilbert:            Hate to tell you bud, but that’s not me. Stop eating and turn around and look up.

(Lil’bit looks up and tears off like a bat out of hell)

Lil’bit:             Oh sweet mama, she’s gonna kill me, she’s gonna kill me, I know she is. I’m about to pee in my britches…save me sweet Jesus.

Gilbert:            Relax. She just wants to be your human friend. Come back and eat. (long pause as Lil’bit approaches the dish with great trepidation) See, she’s doing it again and it’s not so bad huh?

A small parable of joy

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About 10 days ago, a little feral kitten took up residence in our pole barn. S/He’d come staggering into our property earlier in the morning and when I figured out s/he had found a hidey-hole in the barn, I put out some food and water. The kitten was so skittish that there wasn’t any way to get close, though it became clear almost immediately that the food was getting consumed and the kitten was staying put. I was fearful for what our two cats, Gilbert and Sunny, might do in response to this interloper of their homestead, when it became clear that lil’bit was going to stay around for the food.

Yesterday, when I put dinner out in the little dish in the barn, Gilbert, our boy cat (who is all boy, and can play pretty rough) came bounding up and tried to start eating the food until I shooed him away. I went on with some other things I was doing in the yard until I happened to look back in the direction of the place in the barn where I most often catch a glimpse of the little kitty.  Gilbert sprawled out on the cool dirt in the barn as the kitten approached him. I knew better than to try to run, scoop up the kitten and I knew with dread that I was about to watch a massacre take place. What I wondered was how quickly Gilbert would kill the kitten.

Huh.

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Gilbert and Lil’Bit Playing “Whoobass”

That’s not what happened. I had caught them playing what we call “whoobass”  in my family. Gilbert was as sweet and gentle as I’ve ever seen him be. That small fluffy baby cat was deliciously playful and only stopped teasing with Gilbert long enough to look at me with mild curiosity, not fear. Today I started back to work after a glorious week-long stay-cation, and before I left, I took some more food out to our new baby. The two were back playing with each other.

What is the kingdom of God like? The kingdom of God is like Prince Gilbert of the homestead who had good reason to protect his territory and drive out the stranger, and who instead welcomed one who is vulnerable and scared and alone and said, “you are my friend.”

Thirty, unvarnished

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The two of in 1989

Thirty years ago today, Sherod and I got married.  When I think that out loud, I feel the knot gathering in my throat, feel the sting in my eyes.  I’m a little surprised, though not really.  By this time in a marriage, when you look back, or at least when I look back, there are equal parts joy and devastation, heart break and exulation and quiet amazement for what has been endured, found, accomplished.

It’s like this: just a few days ago, I stumbled out of bed one morning and headed into the kitchen to make my coffee. There’s an unspoken understanding between us that if one of us gets inspired with the cooking and uses lots of pots, pans and stuff to prepare a meal, that person will clean up after him or herself.  I looked around the kitchen and nothing had been washed or put up. There was stuff all over the counters and 2 cast iron skillets that had been used for some fairly serious frying and were still on the stove.  

My first thought was, “if I had done this, he’d have been mad as all get out.” My second one was, “I’ll be d^%$#d if I am going to clean up this mess.”  I stopped in my tracks. Heard myself—the sharpness of tone in that interior voice that goes on the offensive/defensive so quickly.  The impatience.  The unwillingness to see him and me as “us”. Shame drenched me. Sherod was still asleep in our room and as quietly as I could, I went to work on the kitchen. I was just hanging the last clean skillet when he came in to get his first cup of coffee. I must have reread the thank you text Sherod sent me later that morning at least ten times in the days that followed.  So little. So much.

One thing thirty years together has done is disprove the optimistic assurances I gave myself that by Sherod’s side, I’d be able to be the bewitching, well-nigh perfect person he thought I was when we fell in wild love. When you’ve been together this long, everything is so close-up and personal—from his penchant for having a radio or TV on 24-7 to the way I forget to tighten lids and caps, causing unnecessary spills and mishaps.  There’s very little we have not seen and heard about each other by now; we are at our most unvarnished selves in marriage and sometimes I wonder how either of us can stand it. And yet we have.  

Last night, we sat together late into the night, he on the leather couch that’s too deep for my legs to reach the floor, me in the recliner that held him after each of his hip replacement surgeries.  Sherod watched a BBC program about the ocean, I worked on a cross-stitch project I started and then put down a couple of years ago.  If you looked at us from one angle, we were the personification of the couple in Simon and Garfunkle’s Dangling Conversation. If you looked at us from another, we have been fulfilling and continue to fulfill, however imperfectly, the prayer that was said over us on the day of our wedding:

Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love and peace with you and one another all the days of their life. Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.  Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair. Amen.

Sometimes the paradox of marriage is so painful, I know I am not the only person who has asked herself if she should have get the heck out of Dodge, who has drawn a rough sketch in her mind of what that might look like and thought, “I actually think I could make that work and anything would be better than this.”  In a deep conversation that caught us both by surprise earlier this weekend, I realized something else, though.  In those times, I have not acted on that urgent desire to run, not because I couldn’t build another life for myself, but because even if there was nothing else left at that moment between us, there was still a promise I had made to this man. Keeping my promise was the one way I could show him and myself that love has not stopped growing between us.

I am 58 years old and Sherod is 72.  The probability of us getting to mark another decade together is quite low and it is that knowledge that brings the sting of tears to my eyes and the sense that if I allowed myself to start crying, I would have a hard time stopping. The unvarnished truth of marriage is complicated. 

And. And.  It has been  grand beyond grand. Today we will clean windows, tend to dogs, cats, a sick chicken girl who may not make it through the day, a stray feral kitten, vegetables, roses and dahlias.  We’ll drive over to Selma early enough in the afternoon to be able to pick up some medicines from the vet for my dad’s dogs and then for an early dinner at the Tally Ho. We will get to stay married for another day.

With all  that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Worth reading

 

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton