Love Mission Accomplished: Tallu Schuyler Quinn
One day someone stepped into my life and reflected the face of God. So pure, so radiant—near transcendent. She gently asked me to dig deeper for truths, to focus my time and gifts on what truly matters; simply to love the world in all its brokenness and beauty.
Tallu and I first met on Skype, when she was in Nicaragua and I had moved to Nashville and Woodmont Christian Church. I was on the hunt for someone to take over the helm of Mobile Loaves and Fishes later to become under Tallu’s inspired leadership—The Nashville Food Project. She was saving the world then (and always) and I was “barefoot and pregnant.” It was the harbinger of a friendship over fifteen years where I would receive far more than I gave.
Tallu became my spiritual Ebenezer. What a gift to find another soul who saw the world full of infinite possibilities, wonder, beauty, hope, redemption. Joyfully, we spoke the same spiritual language. Both of us loved the poetry of Mary Oliver, John O’ Donohue, Wendell Berry and Denise Levertov; dancing to the music of The Indigo Girls and Florence and the Machine; relished the richness and depth of our marriages and the incomparable joy and purpose found in motherhood; felt God’s presence laughing barefoot in our kitchens, chopping herbs, filling bud vases with wildflowers, stirring big pots of soup, and pulling up as many chairs as possible around our dining tables. Both of us were curious about how healing could look on this side of heaven for ourselves, loved ones, the least of these. We used anointing oils, candlelight, and kyries to pull back the mysterious Veil. Tallu had this talent for holding life’s joys and sorrows together at once in her heart, never allowing either to completely overtake her. She could see a sliver of light in the darkest Dark and find pleasure in the smallest joy.
Very meaningful for me were the holy liturgies we created together and led at church. I’ll never forget the Ash Wednesday service entitled, “The Thread” after Denise Levertov’s poem by the same name. Tallu and I relished the poet’s promise:
Something is very gently,
pulling at me-a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven’t tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.
With her marvelous smile and inspired imagination, Tallu proclaimed, “we are going to connect every single person in the sanctuary with a ball of my knitting yarn. Before everyone leaves the service, we will go around with our scissors and cut a piece of my blue yarn for them to take home, “a talisman of hope,” so they never forget that whatever happens, God has them now, tomorrow—forevermore.”
The heavens opened. That happened a lot in her presence.
Tallu knew how to connect the dots for goodness to prevail. To leave her presence was to take with you some of her warm glow, and a renewed confidence that love would have the last word and God could be trusted. (Her home-canned tomatoes, homemade salves, dried herbs tied in twine and jars of fragrant tea leaves were an extra bonus!)
Grief is a strange and seemingly unnatural reality. The best way I can describe it is sudden and without your permission, you ingest a foreign object not meant for your body to digest, but with no way to vacate it. It takes up residence in your secret inner being. That foreignness travels through you unmercifully with no real direction or destination. Every movement is this interior lashing that cuts the tender part of you, leaving invisible bruises and scary emptiness. Someone integral to who you are and how you find your being in the world has been taken away. There are times you find yourself grateful for grief’s painful presence because it means they are still part of your reality. Other times it makes you so angry you’d like to turn your back on God. No one should hurt like this. They say grief is the price of love. Maybe true, but these words are not a healing balm. The grief never leaves you, the hope is that one day it loses some of its fangs and buds of mercy grow in their place. If Tallu were here she would say, “Farrell, this is the moment where you should speak a word of hope.” Hope was her lingua franca. No matter how dark, disappointing—heartbreaking the circumstance, my friend always found her way back into the province of hope.
If I am honest, I worry about the absence of her spiritual nudges in my daily life that always came just at the right time, such gifts of light. I will miss the purity of our friendship and how she tenderly welcomed my vulnerability. She always chose to see the best in me. What can I say—Tallu drew me closer into God’s embrace.
I have no doubt God has something of holy import ahead for Tallu. They say a saint is someone for whom the light never ceases to shine through. She was practicing for heaven for as long as I knew her by the way she lived and loved. I’m hopeful our paths will cross again. I know that courage is what she expects from me now, and wild showings of love.
The way I will honor who Tallu was to me, is to make someone, many I hope, feel the way she made me feel—beloved.
Walk Now, Into Whatever Comes Next
Knowing that God, Who Is Love,
Is Always Always Walking With You.