Toward the end of the novel, Brendan, an old Irish saint, has been talking with another saintly man named Gildas. At the end of the conversation, Gildas begins to stand. Then, Buechner has the narrator, Finn, recount:
Pushing down hard with his fists on the tabletop, [Gildas] heaved himself up to where he was standing. For the first time we saw he wanted one leg. It was gone from the knee joint down. He was hopping sideways to reach for his stick in the corner when he lost his balance. He would have fallen in a heap if Brendan hadn’t leaped forward and caught him.
“I’m crippled as the dark world,” Gildas said.
“If it comes to that, which one of us isn’t, my dear?” Brendan said.
Gildas with his but one leg, Brendan sure he’d misspent his whole life entirely. Me that had left my wife to follow him and buried our only boy. The truth of what Brendan said stopped all our mouths. We was cripples all of us. For a moment or two there was no sound but the bees.
“To lend each other a hand when we’re falling,” Brendan said, “Perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end.” p. 217