Last Thursday my Grandma died at 99.
Then one of my heroes, Rachel Held Evans, died on Saturday at 37.
These two occurrences have kept me in a reflective mood.
When I’m in a reflective mood like this I feel a deep itch inside me that seems to only be reached through writing. I’m not really sure why that is, but I’m glad to be able to do it.
The thing is, I just have lots of random thoughts, impressions, that kind of bounce around in my head. I’m not really sure if any of them are connected or even coherent when put to words.
I am constantly thinking about the layers of history we are a part of at all times. The physical places I inhabit on a daily basis have been inhabited by generations before me in all sorts of ways.
We had the funeral for my grandma at the church she was a lifelong member at. It’s where my dad’s family grew up going to church. We had a little lunch reception after the funeral in the basement kitchen and cafeteria area. The same one that my dad and his siblings hung out in as kids. Same walls. Same floor. Probably the same photos hanging on the wall. And here we all were, almost the entire family sitting together. New generations coming to celebrate the life of and mourn the death of my grandma.
That’s not really deep or inspirational or thoughtful even, but I’m always intrigued by how time folds in on itself in various physical places. How timelines of various people and family scatter for years upon years. Sometimes decades. And then those timelines intersect again. Blips on the timelines of our lives, but significant blips that are all shared. Blips that ultimately help define what a family truly is in this world of ours.
Childhood memory is interesting and complicated. After the funeral we went over to my aunt and uncle’s house and stayed there for some time talking and looking through photos. Swapping stories. And my mind transports me back to the times when I was just a kid around these very same people. Running around carefree. Now I’m the adult, and my two boys run around with their cousins.
Nostalgia is a tricky thing. But at times like this, the nostalgia kind of has a very dull pain to it for me. The good ol’ days are no more. The days when I was young and these adults were all young, and through my young eyes everybody seemed happy. But we are all now looking so much older. And time has spared no one, some it has stolen away.
Rachel’s death is still so freshly affecting my heart to a point that I’m not sure I’m able to write about it quite yet.
But as I ask the questions of why I am reminded of how she wrote about why children ask so many questions. It’s not really for a clear definitive answer. They want attention, they crave a conversation. And so it perhaps is most beneficial to tell them a long story about why the sky is blue or what the moon is or why elephants have long noses rather than to give them some scientific answer.
Her point in all that was that God rarely seems to give definitive answers to our why questions. Instead, he chooses to tell us stories. And his stories are long and filled with all sorts of depth of meaning and attention. Oh how he must love us.
So I say all that to wonder how Rachel’s death fits into the story God is telling us today. What is going on in this crazy world of ours?