So, our house was full.
Walking from the front door to the living room, there were family antiques that Mom taught herself how to restore. Standing in the dining room, there was inherited china on display. If you walked the hall to our bedrooms, you found turn-of-the-century framed photographs of relatives on the wall, next to mid-century school-year photos pinned to a bulletin board. Shelves of scrapbooks and albums cataloguing recent personal history were crammed next to textbooks that spanned a century.
If you sat by the kitchen while the food was cooking, or at the dining table once it was done, you’d hear which relative was known for the recipe. We smelled and tasted their legacy on Sundays and holidays.
And on any day of the year, we could tour our history – thumbing through the albums, and sitting where our people had sat. Here, an upholstered bench dedicated to talking on the telephone; there, a sturdy hardwood chair reserved for a large-scale relative. In this way, we were trained to never forget the people that we’d never met.
We knew security and peace because we knew loving care. We knew joy because every season was celebrated. We knew melancholy and grief because of our mother’s lament for the loss of youth, and its innocence, and the people she loved in those times.
There was a sense of a people in our home, more than the five who lived there. And Someone more.
There were crosses over doorways. By my father’s side of the bed, there was a rosary and a cross made of palm leaves pinned to the wall. And at our table, we bowed our heads and said a blessing.
On New Year’s Eve, we’d turn off the TV for a family prayer. Later, we’d turn it back on in time for the countdown. My father would pop a cork with his signature toasts, and we’d hear car horns and firecrackers in the distance.
But first came my mother kneeling with her forehead on the seat cushion of the sofa, praying out loud over us, and thanking God for her family, starting with the loved ones who’d gone on. She would wipe her eyes, and then we would each take a turn praying from our hearts too.
And our hearts were full.
Now, we pray for God to restore us. To help us know what to frame, what to keep, and when to tell the stories to the next generation. We pray for God to reveal His imprint on our lives through the stories that we tell, about ourselves and those who came before us. To testify how God has preserved us, though we be as fragile as the china, and sometimes as tattered as the photographs.
We pray for the transparency to show Your hand upon us, sustaining and providing for us in spite of ourselves. To show Your daily transformation of us, and our lives crammed with personal concerns. Help us to dust off the lessons You’ve taught us, and those we love, and to walk in Your wisdom.
Knock at the door of our hearts with others’ testimonies; remind us to listen and learn how You have moved mightily in their lives, and to celebrate Your glory in their stories.
May we meet You in these shared stories. May we know daily family reunion with You.
Help us never to forget.