Reflecting on What Matters
I got in a reflective mood recently, during a morning devotional time with my wife. The book we are using asked what memorial places are special to you and what makes them so significant.
My first answer was the headstone our son-in-law placed in the garden outside the home where he and our daughter lived—and our grandson and his family now reside.
The grief and shock of our daughter’s death more than 13 years ago brought us back to West Virginia, where many significant events have transpired.
Since our return, I have been through three traumatic episodes, starting with double bypass surgery in January of 2008.
While I thought nothing could be worse than getting cut open, I sustained a back injury in 2013 that ultimately sent me to physical therapy for three and a half months. The pain lingered for several more.
Dealing with unremitting back pain for a year is akin to getting cut open.
Then I fell down the stairs last November and sustained a moderate concussion. It took six months to get over that. In its own way, it was as bad as the previous two traumas.
Each time, I was glad to have family close for encouragement and prayer. Just as I have been grateful for the latest round of graduations, upcoming Fourth of July celebrations and birthday parties, and summer picnics with family.
We couldn’t have made all those events living a three-hour drive away, as we did until 2005.
The other memorial that came to mind is the garden and small pond behind the church in Golden, Colorado where we were baptized in 1981.
I saw it again two years ago on our latest visit to the Denver area, where my stepson still lives.
In one of the most painful things we’ve ever experienced, that church went through a serious demise.
By the time we left, only a dozen members remained. Ultimately, it closed its doors.
However, several years later a pastor came there with a core group to relaunch it as a contemporary congregation appealing to young adults.
A year or so after the re-launch, we were driving through Golden to see an old friend. As we passed the church, we noticed a huge new building taking shape.
Stopping the car, we walked inside, found the pastor, and explained we had once been members there.
He took us through the new sanctuary, then still under construction. It was about three times the size of the old one.
Many years would pass before we had a chance to attend a service there. We met our friend on a Sunday and stopped into the old church building for pre-service refreshments in what is now the fellowship hall.
We enjoyed the service that day. Because we had to get back to our son’s apartment for a Memorial Day weekend cookout, we couldn’t stay for the baptismal service that followed.
But I don’t know that it would have been that meaningful. Sitting there during church, I realized that our friend was literally the only person we knew there.
The place that had been so significant in our lives was gone, replaced by new people, new pastors, and a town that had changed so much we barely recognized it.
As with everything in life, people move on. The places we knew aren’t there any longer, even if the physical location remains the same.
“Remember when?” will live only in our memories.
Still, by bringing us back to those places of significance, memorials can help us appreciate the people, times, and Holy Spirit that shaped our lives.