Living through the seasons of grief.
Yesterday I attended the Memorial and grave side services of a friend’s father. He died at age 99, keeping his mental capacities to the very end. Family and a handful of friends along with his caregivers gathered to remember this man’s life. Stories and memories were shared by 2nd generation siblings and 3rd generation grandchildren while 4th generation children nestled on parent and grandparent laps. As I listened, I was moved to ponder how long will stories of this “great grandpa” be remembered and passed down?
I can only think of a couple of vignettes of my great grandmother and I wondered if I have ever told them to my children. Eventually, stories of generations before us vanish. Old photos are just faces with missing histories. While we might guess the personality, character, likes, dislikes, accomplishes and vices, we will not know the full stories. Some families have a collection of letters that might fill in some missing pieces, but will the 3rd or 4th generation even care about those who went before them? I had to admit that I have had little interest in knowing the loves and losses, the everyday routines and the life-time accomplishments of past generations. Is it really because I have no interest or because I am overly consumed with my current life, living it to its fullest? Does the insane, limitless overload of information bombarding us today, leaving our senses barely capable of choosing what input to focus on? Maybe the stories of most common folk are meant to go with them to their graves? Or maybe not. Something to consider.
As for my friend, he and his siblings are now the senior generation. It feels awkward, like trying to get one’s sea legs at the beginning of an ocean voyage. His grief is a heart’s longing for the presence and wisdom of his father. There is an empty space. No father to visit, or call, or share the son’s interests. Fortunately for this family, the empty space is not jumbled with regrets or unfinished business. They took care of that as they lived and when it was time to say “good night” the relationships were healthy. This will only assist them in their bereavement.
Yet, I have a hope. Is it possible that God retains our histories? Wouldn’t it be like our wise God that those stories will be restored when these bodies (dead or alive) are made immortal? How fascinating eternity will be to meet and greet one another, with no time restrictions? I wonder what it would be like to listen to my great grandmother tell me her stories. I am curious to hear her version of how she played in a one-woman band. I will be curious about the life stories of your great-great grandparents too. For in an environment of timelessness and perfect relationships, it will be intriguing to get to know the stories of every generation who have ever lived and died on this planet. I wonder what the interconnections will look like? I wonder what patterns we will observe in all our stories? I wonder how we will feel when we discover that an ancestor made choices that impacted our lives? Eternal history lessons just might flourish with significance. And maybe we will learn better how God redeemed the painful and destructive events in each of our stories, revealing a golden thread of His healing love that radiates even more vividly.