You can’t go back to where you have been, but you can look back & remember what you learned when you were there. This is a good word for us at any time, but it seems particularly appropriate as Next Step launches its website.
I couldn’t believe it. Jerry and I drove into a section of the Botanical Gardens in Memphis & there it was: a 1956 BelAire Chevrolet. Though I didn’t know where it had come from, I knew why it was there.
Our children had planned a celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. They knew I had a 1955 BelAire “hard-top convertible” when we married. One of their friends had this ’56 – the closest thing to the ’55 they could borrow. Beside the car there were two manikins, one dressed in Jerry’s wedding gown; the other in a replica of the tux I had worn. Then there was a life size picture of us, leaving the wedding for our honeymoon. A second life size picture was of me standing by my prized ‘55 outside “Nubby’s Truck Stop” where we had spent our first night of marriage. (Only Jerry can tell that story, so I would never try.)
Family members & a few special friends were there, & it was a great “going back” time – a wonderful sharing of love & memories, extravagant affirmations that loving folks will be forgiven for, photographs from every period of our lives on the table, a photo-music video prepared by our grandson Nathan, & three hours of loving togetherness that defines what life is all about. Everything about it – from the flowers in Mason fruit jars hanging all around the pavilion to the catfish & hushpuppy dinner – was an expression of joyful memory.
I can’t imagine a couple having a richer, more beautiful, fulfilling, & rewarding fifty years than we have had. The celebration was a kind of climatic memory-gathering of it all.
The celebration continued the next day with out-of-town folks coming for brunch & more sharing. Then the next morning the call came. My oldest brother, Edgar, had died peacefully in his sleep during the night. We had had 48 hours of joyful celebration, now a different celebration – but no less a celebration – as we joined family & friends back in Perry County, Mississippi for his funeral. That’s where I grew up with Edgar, another brother & two sisters. We were poor, but for most of our lives we didn’t know it. Life was hard, but we were not too aware of that. It was simple, but we had not yet learned to value that. Our parents were loving & supportive. They didn’t read much, so were spared the misguidance that too many modern parents get from pop psychology.
With these two events coming so closely together I have reflected a lot on the fact that you can’t go back to where you started from but you can look back and try to remember what you learned when you were there. I learned “when I was there” that you can’t make it alone; we need others just to survive. There are many things that are more important than money & material things: loving parents, caring friends, a community where you are known by name, integrity of character (your word-your bond), wisdom from experience rather than “book-learning.” Persons are not to be used, but relationships are to be cultivated for the simple but profound enhancement of life. The Christian faith is not an insurance policy for something that comes after death, but the dynamic that shapes our life & guides the way we live daily in our work & relationships.
I wish I had learned the biggest lesson that I could have learned “when I was there” – that time is all we have & how we use it makes all the difference in the world. Today is all I have. Today is all I can handle. Today is all I need.