My mother was an antique dealer for a while. It is still part of her soul. When she closed her shop, many of the nice pieces came to live with us. I was an adolescent and the stories behind these pieces didn’t matter much to me at the time. But I have come to understand that it is not only people that have stories.
My cookie jar has a story. It was given to my mother by my great aunt in Denmark. It’s a cookie can, really. Growing up all it ever meant to me was cookies. But it has a story. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the cookie can carries a part of my mother’s story to me.
As does the drawing of the Channing Market that now hangs upon my wall. I remember the store vaguely from when I was very young. It is gone now. It has been gone a long time. But when mother was a child she lived across the street from that market. The picture carries to me that part of her story.
My grandfather’s cane bears to me the memory of my mother’s father, sitting in his chair, taking his daily walk, smiling benevolently. He never said much, but I enjoyed his presence. I realize now he was losing his memory. I’m not sure he knew who we were. But he seemed happy we were there. His presence is conveyed to me in his cane.
I have a small figurine of a laughing rabbit, a duplicate of one I gave to the girl’s mother when we were in High School. It carries to me the remembrance of that afternoon in the city when I was in love and we laughed. I wish I knew what happened to the laughter. But the rabbit still makes me smile, bittersweet though it might be.
Things bear a story to us, and carry us into the story. It is the nature of remembrance. It is the nature of tangible things. There is a reason God uses bread and wine. The tangible thing bears to us his story – and carries us into his story.
It, too, is a bittersweet memory: a memory of a meal, a betrayal, a grief, and an astonishing mystery. “In the night in which he was betrayed.” There begin those key words that remember a night, a shared meal, a story of deliverance from Egypt, a dramatic act of washing feet, a dreamy drunken sleep, then suddenly a mob with torches, a kiss, fear, running. But he didn’t run. He gave himself for us. Grace and shame in the same moment, regret and a wondrous love. It is all borne to us in the bread.
And the bread carries us into the story. We are his disciples. We are his students, his followers. We are his witnesses. Others need to know who he was. Others need to know what he has done. Inside that story is hope for our troubled world. Inside that story is life. An indestructible life. And in that life we are made whole.