Tomorrow would have been my daughter’s 36th birthday. It snuck up in me, busy as I’ve been. But a look at the calendar today, and that number 13 jumped out. Is it really May already? Are we here again?
What shall we do with all those fading memories? Who will remember when this generation is past? What is the nature of the new creation? Is there a story line where she dances and sings with her own children? Is there a story line that has her old, in a purple hat, playing in the grass with grandchildren? Will she always be 19 with daisies in her hair and kindness in her eyes?
Will her voice always have the purity of youth, or will it gain the depth and resonance of years? Will her laugh abide or grow into a happy and bemused chuckle? Will she feast at the divine banquet table with nieces and nephews now older than she?
They are strange thoughts, unknowable. The shape of the promise can only be described with metaphors. It is rightly described as the far country, the world whose true nature eludes us.
And maybe there is no such land. Maybe the only future is to return to the dust that is continually blown out into the cosmos, sucked into new stars, and blown out again. To which I would say, even so, I live for the promise.
Paul may say “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” But I disagree. To live for kindness, compassion, fidelity, hope, and the healing of every human heart is not in vain. I stand with the prophet Habbakuk:
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
To live in the confidence of a world brought from death into life is not a life lost, it is a life gained.
It is better to live in a world that celebrates love than one that worships power. It is better to live in the hope of generosity than hardness of heart. It is better to shape your life by love of neighbor than care only of self.
Such things endure. Kindnesses are remembered. Truth doesn’t perish. Beauty doesn’t fade. The sunrise may be fleeting, but its glory will always be glory. There may have been a time before Yosemite – and a time after – but what we have seen will always be majestic.
I choose to live for what is eternal, regardless of the sorrows of our age. I choose the warm sands into which my step-mother desires her toes – now ashes – to rest. It may be meaningless, what will ashes know? But it is an expression of faith in the goodness of the world. A faith I intend to honor.
So it is now the 17th year in a world without Anna. But the world will never be without her. For she was. And she is. And even when she is no longer remembered her song will endure. He laughter still rings. Her kindness abides.
And whatever the far shore looks like, I live for it to come here and be our truth.