It had been over a year since my father died. My sister and had I made multiple attempts to come to my mother’s house so we could go through his clothes and give them away. We found multiple excuses to delay this task.
When we finally made it, we did reasonably quick work of the immediate tasks. My dad has been quite the clotheshorse in his day. He still had some nice suits hanging in the back of his closet.
As we were going through his things, I was struck again by the contrasts in his life. He had always taken good care of his clothes. Until dementia got to him in the end, everything was always carefully hung up or folded. Good use of shoe trees meant that his shoes tended to last a long time. But the piles of paper that plagued him . . . oh my.
After we finished my father’s closet, my mother invited us to consider tackling what we had privately called her “Fibber McGee” closet. For those too young to know, “Fibber McGee and Molly” was the name of a famous radio show from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. The “closet” was a running gag about an overstuffed closet they periodically opened and then, after being buried by a cascade of stuff, decided that they needed to “clean out one day.”’ Of course, that day never arrived.
Here’s the audio of the original radio show, in case you’d like to listen to it!
For us, the long awaited day had arrived. Bravely, my sister and I ventured in. Bags of clothes long meant to be given away were placed in the garage sale stack. Unidentifiable and broken things headed for the trash. A bag of old photographs now sits on my desk, waiting until I can go through them and see what might be worth keeping. Nothing too hard—we were working rapidly and efficiently.And then I found stacks and stacks of notebooks, mostly 8 ½ by 5 inches in size, many blank, but others with notes that my mother had made over the years. Lists of things to do, ideas for the Sunday School news column she has written weekly for 40 years now, detailed planning for the house she and my dad built 25 years ago, drafts of letters that she was writing
Paperwork is my family nemesis. Every member of the family appears to struggle with keeping it under control, deciding what to toss and what to keep. Genetically, I figure I have no hope since both my mother and dad had the same tendencies. And so I opened these notebooks with these snippets of my family’s life, and was immediately mesmerized. Nothing earth-shaking, just bits of memories flooding my brain from the words on the page.
It was with great reluctance that I sent some of those notebooks to the recycling pile, knowing I’ve lost some memories here. But there is no way I can go through all those. And I, who have in one form or another saved the thousands and thousands of pages I’ve written over the years, must realized that no one is going to go through all that as well.
However, I also know that those memories have made me what I am today. It is those memories that drive me to say, “We must bring the children to church so they will have memories of being in a place where they experience the real love of God.”
I know how many activities are pulling at each family today. I have a pretty decent understanding of the challenges parents face when saying “yes” to one place and “no” to another. But I have an ongoing concern when the “no” keeps being church for children.
There will never again be such a good time to teach them of the power of God’s love and the place to receive the grace and forgiveness that we all need. These kinds of memories leave an inheritance for generations, and I fear they are about to be lost for many.
How God must weep over this loss of shared memory. When we gave up resting on the seventh day, we gave up a lot more than any of us realized. It is very sad.