How much time do we spend looking in the rearview mirror of our lives, convinced that the sunny days behind us were the best ever? When the world around us is dark and stormy we look back wistfully at how things ‘used to be’. Remember when church on Sunday morning was just the thing to do? Remember when the stores were closed on Sundays and life was simpler? Remember when we could just leave the house and go wherever we wanted and greet others with a handshake or a hug? Remember when we could just put toilet paper on the list when we left for the store and be able to get it?
The world events during this Lent have made it a time of even deeper reflection than perhaps ever before. In this year of being physically distant from others we have the time and the space to look deeper within ourselves and perhaps look back a bit wistfully at how it “used to be”.
Perhaps it makes me weird, but Memorial Day is what I remember as the most consistently celebrated holiday in my family. From the time I was very young I remember gathering flowers to take to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of dear people. When I was a child most of the graves were those of people I had never actually met, but knew a bit through the stories.
I never knew my great grandparents but I heard stories over the years from those who did. I never knew my great uncle Edward, but I know he died at the age of 19, electrocuted when an auger he was moving connected with an overhead power line. I never knew my great uncle Earl’s wife Ruby, but I know that she “lit up the room when she walked in.” I never met my cousin Diane because she lived only a few hours after her birth about 10 years before I was born – she would have been the same age as my brother.
As the years have passed the number of graves to visit grew larger and the memories became my own.
There is Mary, who was Mom’s best friend. She talked Mom into letting me get the brown corduroy knickers and vest set that I thought were so cool (and Mom hated) when I was in Junior High. (Remembering wearing those still makes me smile all these many years later!)
There is my brother who, even though our relationship wasn’t always easy, I still remember dancing with me at his high school dance when I was 5 or 6 years old.
There is my nephew who opted out of this life at the age of 17. If I close my eyes I can still picture his lifeless body on his bedroom floor. But a stronger memory is the mischievous sparkle in his eyes every time he smiled. I don’t have to close my eyes to picture that!
There are grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and my parents who have graves to be decorated.
There used to be four of us going to the cemeteries with flowers in hand – my uncle Earl, my Dad, my Mom and me. These days there is only me and I live many miles away from those cemeteries. But I still think back to the days we would all pile into the car with whatever flowers we had gathered. We went first to Lewiston and stopped at The Garden Square (it’s a car lot now) so Earl could buy a planter for the graves of Joe and Margaret, dear friends of his. Then we had a route that we followed from cemetery to cemetery and a route through each cemetery. Then we would finish the day with dinner out somewhere. It was tradition! It’s a tradition I look back on fondly. It shows up very well in the rear view mirror of my life.
The truth is that for all the days of our lives there will be good and bad things happening to us and those around us. Right now we have a scary virus darkening our skies. The predicted number of people who will be affected is almost incomprehensible. And no matter how we are directly affected by the actual virus, our world is changing at an even greater speed than it was just a few weeks ago – and that was a pretty good speed then!
As we get older we find that perhaps the one constant we can count on in life – even more than taxes – is change. The world around us is changing and that is sometimes a scary thing. We long for the days we see in our rearview mirror, especially when it looks dark and stormy and scary.
In these dark and stormy and scary days it’s important to look to the promise that God has given us throughout scripture that we he does not leave us alone. We aren’t put here to cope with things on our own.
When we are tempted to get too caught up in the view in our rearview mirror we need to remember that while our past shapes us and influences our present we are called to live boldly into the future, not stay in the past. “There is hope for your future, God says.” (Jeremiah 31:17)
We may see stormy skies ahead, but we are not facing those stormy skies alone. God is with us giving us the strength we need to face those storms in our lives. After all, God put the rainbow in the sky that signals the end of the storm. This storm will pass and there will be another rainbow in our sky and we will only see it by looking forward.
Keep us looking for the rainbows at the end of the storm. They will surely come! Amen.