Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When You Stop & Think About It for September 9, 2009

(When You Stop & Think About It is the title of my weekly church newsletter column)

I am always intrigued by conversations that I have with people who were born in the early part of the last century, I am particularly fascinated by those that I have with people who were born in the 1920s, and I am absolutely mesmerized by conversations that I have with folks who were born in 1921.

So if you’re 88, I really like talking with you!

And yes, there is a reason.

Both of my parents were born in 1921, my father in July and my mother in September. Each of them died before they reached retirement age, Mama of cancer when she was 53 and Daddy of a heart attack when he was 57.

I will be 51 in a couple of weeks and so I am entering the phase of life during which my parents died; I have no plans—not that my plans have anything to do with it—to follow their leadership in that way. But there sure have been lots of times over the last three—my goodness, almost four!—decades since they died when I would have been so very grateful for the opportunity to rummage around in the attic of their collected wisdom, to pick up some of what I found there, and to try it on for size.

I know some of it would have been outdated and out of style and maybe even moth-eaten and I know that I would have left much of it right where I found it but still—the gaps in my knowledge, the deficiencies in my wisdom, and the holes in my soul could surely have been more easily filled had I had access to the treasures I would have found there.

As things are in my real world—the one in which my parents aren’t present—though, it is hard for me even to picture what they would have been like as 88-year-old people. Oh, sometimes I get a glimpse; my father’s youngest brother Johnny, who is just entering his seventies, looks and talks very much like Daddy and so I am blessed when I am around him both by who he is and by the glimpse of my father that he offers me.

But I am also blessed when I share in a conversation with people from my parents’ generation, with folks who are 88 or thereabouts, because in their experiences I can sense my parents’ experiences, in their values I can detect my parents’ values, and in their wisdom I can see my parents’ wisdom. So to our senior adults I say “Thank you”—thank you for the ministry you offer me and others in your words, in your actions, and in your presence.

My father was born on July 25, 1921 but my mother was born on September 13, 1921, which means that this Sunday—the day of our Senior Adult Day celebration—would have been her 88th birthday.

So if some of you catch me looking at you a little funny this Sunday, don’t take it personally—I’ll be thanking God for you, to be sure, but I’ll also be thanking God for the reminder you are to me of the parents who have not been with me—but yet, through memories, through stories, and through others, have been with me—for a very long time.

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