In about a month, I will go cat-sit for my parents while they travel to Texas for my aunt’s memorial service. Aunt Vivienne grew up in northern England. Being 11 years older, she treated my dad more like a doll or plaything. My dad remembers as a small child his sister and her friend sticking pins in him–they wanted to be nurses and practiced giving shots on my dad. Ah, youth….
My dad remembers charmingly fun times in his town outside of Manchester. He has always declared that there is no finer place to be than England at Christmastime. After living in Germany for 3 years, I have to admit that European Christmases transported me back to childhood. But, those idyllic times intersperse with surreal ugly times. My grandfather died when my dad was about 8. He had been gassed in the trenches during WWI and doctors believe that’s where his stomach cancer originated. The men of the town spoke to my dad in reverence about my grandfather. Whatever my grandfather did during WWI to evoke that respect will never come to light. Then WWII came and Manchester received the second most bombings next to London.
My dad remembers ‘double-daylight-savings’. The factory workers needed light when they got off work to tend their gardens–without that produce, they would have starved. He remembers bombs exploding and air raid sirens. He remembers being thrown from his bed when a bomb exploded about 2 blocks from his house–he has tinnitus in his ears from that event. He remembers after the trauma of war, being sent away to boarding school because my grandma didn’t have enough food for him and figured if there was food in England, the government would see to it that the children got it. He remembers and the memory haunts his sleep with nightmares that he doesn’t share.
Aunt Vivienne married an American soldier whom she met at a USO dance, and she moved to Texas with my Uncle Harry. Devastated in England, my dad and grandma eventually emigrated to America and joined Aunt Vivienne and Uncle Harry in Texas. My dad was 17. He’s never been back to England. But his gratitude for my aunt and uncle, my uncle’s family who gave him a job and took him in as their own family and all the people who made his transition to America joy-filled and community-loving remains constantly in his heart and life toward others–part of my heritage.
So with the passing of my 91 year old aunt, I reflect on legacy and lifespans. She saw so much history in her life. She kept so many thoughts on those events sealed in her heart.
All of us do. We have life events that many may know; but how we process through those things, very few experience with us. Part of my dad’s grief is that Aunt Vivienne’s death closes a chapter of my dad’s childhood. The last person who experienced (or was allowed to experience through memory and sharing) that part of his life is gone, and she took with her the piece of my dad’s memory that she shared with him. He lost his sister and his last connection to his childhood in England.
The three years that Jesus spent with his disciples must have felt so full of life. Good times, bad times, mundane times as they walked all over and lived life together. And not just any life–Kingdom Life. God’s life coming down. The glorious entry into Jerusalem. Shared story. WOW! And then he was gone. Yes, he resurrected, but then he ascended. As they waited for the Holy Spirit to come to them, I wonder if they grieved Jesus not being with them physically? They remembered. They had each other. They remembered together–and perhaps the remembering sustained them. Then, the Holy Spirit came, they finally got Jesus’ message and the world changed forever. Now that’s a legacy!! But what if they had kept all that memory sealed up in their hearts or only shared amongst themselves? What if they hadn’t understood that sharing the remembrances would propel faith in others and light a fire of expectation that the kingdom of God really could be here and now?
I take my friends for granted…often. I don’t always fully appreciate sharing life with each other. I overlook opportunities to reveal my heart. I don’t want to remember times past when that sharing took place. I want to learn by failure and success how to open up more of myself–thus starting the blog. I don’t want to memorialize around a grave. I want today to celebrate life, love, relationship and shared stories of God at work in our lives!