Remembering has a way of warming and chilling the heart. Words spoken and left unsaid hover like angels and ghosts over our memories. We are defined by what we say, mournful for what we don’t, and afraid to think about it for too long. Losing people who were part of shaping you is like losing your personality or character. All the conversations, laughter, tears, and understanding are like threads of the tapestry of your life. When those threads are torn away, it can feel as if it will all come unravelled. There are two such threads recently removed from the tapestry of my life.
My grandmother could be defined as the antithesis to Teddy Roosevelt. She spoke loudly and carried a little stick, but she didn’t mind using it when necessary. I remember the irony of portraying strength and offering comfort, despite my own inner turmoil, during my grandmother’s eulogy. Though my outward composure betrayed any evidence to the contrary, inside, a tsunami of grief was making landfall on my heart. A few things stick out in my memory about her. First, she enjoyed joking with people. There was a teasing nature about her humor, which left everyone in laughter and wondering who was next. Second, she was very talkative. What people say define them. My grandmother said a lot of things. She said funny things, stern things, loving things, and insightful things. Yet, somehow they usually seemed to blend together and come full circle in a conversation. One of the most insightful things she ever said was, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I still remember the weight in the air when she made that statement.
In each of our lifetimes there is usually one person, or two at most, who really understand you. They know what makes you laugh and are usually laughing at the same things. They know what makes you tick because chances are that’s what’s ticking inside them. Clay was a friend like that and losing him was like losing a part of myself because he was partly responsible for me being who I am. From middle school on, he and I forged a friendship and fellowship that centered around our faith, music, laughter, trips, ministry, and so much more. Perhaps Clay could be best described as generously practical.
Thinking back has been difficult but helpful. Opportunities shared and lost are reminders of the great gift and responsibility of family and friends. This life and our time together are limited. Eternity is not, so make it count.