There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all~ Lennon/McCartney
I attended a memorial service today. I think I was the youngest person there. We were celebrating the life of someone I first remember from 1976. This remarkable woman and her late husband took care of us when my grandfather died and my parents had to go overseas to help my grandmother. My parents were gone for three weeks. In that time, I learned that “idle hands were the devil’s work” and meatloaf actually came in a color other than confetti (my mother had a habit of mixing everything and anything into ground beef to make it stretch further). Her son became our “cousin” and was so much a part of our growing up that even though it’s been twenty years since I saw him, he’s still “Cuz.”
The sermon wasn’t anything resembling a eulogy. It was about relationships and how our human relationships don’t end with death. Rather, those bonds sustain us as we ourselves move towards death and, depending upon your beliefs, reunion with those who have gone before.
This summer has been one of reflection for me. I’ve had many hours by myself and spent some of them revisiting the places of my youth. As I drove around my old haunts, I had time to think about all the memories. My first elementary school where I met my “kindergarten husband.” The second one where I got in trouble for bringing a banned book to school. The junior high I attended is now completed fenced in like Fort Knox and is a preparatory school. My high school, which I remember as being located in the middle of a cotton field, is also fenced in and surrounded by strip malls. I guess this is the “some forever, not for better” part of the story.
But the people I’ve reconnected with are like favorite tee-shirts. A bit worn and maybe faded, but they still fit perfectly. You would think after being gone almost 25 years, things would have changed between us. Yet we greet each other as if no time has passed.
As I stood in the church today, I realized that things have changed for many people. The churches I attended as a young adult were “progressive” and “forward thinking.” I caught myself wondering if that was a good thing. I grew up in a religious tradition steeped in ritual. I found myself saying the “old school” version of the prayers. There was incense and bells (bells and smells as we kids called it). My memories are, of course, shaped by time. But even with the well-rounded edges that occur from turning them over and over in my mind they are brought into sharp focus when placed back in context.
I’ll miss my “aunt” and everything she taught me growing up. As the priest said today, she is among the last of a generation that served without questioning or seeking glory. Long before churches started offering “Alpha groups” and ways to “reconnect our youth,” there were people who attended church for the communion with others in worshipping under a common umbrella. Congregations welcomed new members and all pitched in to keep things running. I think that’s what’s been missing in my more recent forays into churches.
So, dear readers, think about your relationships. I want to be able to say I’ve loved them all and that is true for the most part. Help me change “for better” so the next generation understands that service is not a burden. Don’t let my aunt’s generation be the last that serves without seeking glory. Above all, make sure you love them all….