Thursday, May 26, 2011
A Delicate Balance: The Past and the Present
The words from the Lutheran communion liturgy fill my heart:
"Let the vineyards be fruitful, Lord, and fill to the brim our cup of blessing. Gather a harvest of the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the bread of life. Gather the hopes and dreams of all; unite them with the prayers we offer. Grace our table with your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come."
Each celebration was an acknowledgment of the hopes and dreams we have for these special young women whom we love and adore. We gathered at not only the communion table, but at buffet tables, eating and drinking together as a sign of our connection to each other. We looked at each of these loving presences in our lives as hopeful signs of the future and prayed whatever they encounter that they may always be surrounded by such visible love and support.
In the midst of the festivities, however, a question kept nagging me. How do we continue to live fully in the present when so much of our life is in the past, when we have so much to remember? What do we do with all the memories of past events, events that we have lived before more than once, and now the event is here all over again? Different people. Different times and settings, but the same event. High school graduation. First communions and confirmations and baptisms. Weddings. Births and deaths. Changes and transitions.
I was flooded with memories. For example, as I stood in my sister's dining room, I recalled our own dining room when our daughter, the mother of our granddaughter now, was graduating from high school. My sister was pregnant with the child who we were now celebrating. I felt pulled back to that same event only all those years ago when I was the mother who had been baking for weeks and had been cleaning and redecorating in anticipation of a houseful of guests, using the occasion as the excuse. I thought about that whole senior year when I had been in tears for every last event. How was it possible that my daughter was old enough to graduate from high school? How is it now possible that she has a daughter old enough for first communion? How is it possible that the unborn child is now graduating from high school and that my younger sister is now facing empty nest? Did anyone notice as I oohed and aahed at the array of treats and the "Oh, the Places You'll Go" decorations in the dining room that I was not fully present, that I was in the past?
And then I walked into the family room, and there was my father sitting in what is known as the Papa Chair, and he seemed to be quietly observing all the fun and fanfare, just as he had sat and watched earlier that day at the lunch after church. I realized how much more the past dominates his days. I don't know if he was thinking about other celebrations, the open houses he and Mom hosted for each of us kids or others he attended over the years. Perhaps he was thinking about his own high school graduation. There is a lot of past in his present and who knows how much future.
One of the challenges of these added years is to stay engaged with the present. The memories and lessons of the past are valuable, for sure, and should not be discounted and in fact, can make us enjoy the present even more, but I think it is tempting to lose ourselves in the past with its memories and stories. One clue perhaps is to realize that this present moment is transforming itself into the past right now. In order to remember it all--how our granddaughter glowed as she received the cup of wine, and how surprised she was to receive presents, and the sound of our niece's voice as she said "This is my Aunt Nan and Uncle Bruce" to her friends, and how our young grandson was so at home in my sister's house--I need to stay present. I need to open my heart, along with my eyes and ears, and rejoice in the now.