Life is interesting. We tend to take it for granted. We assume we have tomorrow. It isn’t until we loose someone we love, or possibly have to deal with an illness, or notice the aging of our bodies, that we become seriously aware of the fragility of life.
For each of us, God has spent more thoughts than the grains of sands, on the details of what our lives will be like. He has anticipated all that could happen to us, the people in our lives, the families we would be born into, which country we would live and even the decade of time we would occupy this earth. He joyfully built into each of us different skills and gifts that we would have, our interests. He fabricated the details of what we would look like, eye color, skill color, hair texture. He knew us long before we were ever born. The Bible says he knit us in our mother’s womb. No detail was too insignificant. He fashioned us to be perfect for the schedule of our time on the earth and even how many days we would live. Life is a gift. It is also a reflection of His love. He is love, and he built that into us as well. We are made in his image, so we too love.
I have been working on a project. Over the many years, I have collected thousands of photographs of my family. In the previous generations, they too collected many pictures although not as many. The technology was different and pictures were expensive. Often they were in black and white. The old technology often fading. Each photo has become someone’s memory. These pictures have captured a moment in someone’s life. Pictures are treasures to me. Often I have thought I would always remember a particular moment, or experience because of how significant it was. Alas, over the years, more special moments wrote over the memories and details have become lost. What I thought I would always remember, I don’t. I am sure that is true of many of us. Looking at old pictures, evokes those memories, the emotions spring back. The laughter, the awe of the moment captured in a split fraction of time over a life time of each person. These pictures are a testimony of life in so many ways.
Growing up, my dad was in the Navy. Therefore, I grew up all over the world. I wasn’t around to build experiences with my grandparents, cousins. I heard the stories of who they were from my parents. We would travel to see them. Snippets of moments are all I have in my memories for many of them. I can count on my hands how many times I saw them in my lifetime. Yet an appreciation for their personalities was built into me. I knew I was linked to them. The few times we were with them, instilled in me an awareness of extended family and how precious it was to be able to be together. I loved the laughter, and their reflections of their memories. Often life had been difficult for them. Yet even in those challenges, they found the humor that bound them together in an appreciation for being family. Perhaps because those moments were so rare, it instilled in me a strong appreciation for knowing I had an extended family. To this day, when I am able to see a cousin, there is this sense of awe that I am actually with a family member. It is precious to me.
The project I am working on, is to scan all those photographs and negatives. My mom had some precious pictures of her family. My dad had 2 from his childhood. His family had a fire and all their pictures had been destroyed. I knew of a picture of my dad with his class from school, and one of him as a young boy in front of a huge rock. I unexpectedly found an old picture that I didn’t recognize. On the back it said it was my dad’s mom holding him as a newborn. Wow. What a shock. When I showed it to dad, he didn’t even know it existed. It has become a new treasure because of its rarity. Many of these old pictures are fading. Some have been damaged. Each of these pictures detail a particular moment in time for their lives. Some of the people, I have no clue who they were. Others, I love to absorb into my mind as I linger over the images of people I had heard stories of. I look for similarity of features of myself and my children. I wish I had known them better. I wish I could have spoken to them and learned what they knew, what was important to them. I delight with each new discovery of information when I speak to someone who had knowledge of that person’s life. Sadly my fascination with my families history didn’t kick in until I was older. Most had died, and my mom had Alzheimers and couldn’t remember when I asked questions.
It has been an emotional journey doing this project. Looking at the precious images of people like my mom who have died, the developing images of my children as they aged, remembering the goofiness and the laughter of funny moments. Memories of incidences that at times were so profound, or traumatic, or just the joy of life, or accomplishments have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I delight in these memories because this is my history of my life. Woven in with all these other lives, they shaped what my life was like, what I experienced. These reflections are mine. My experiences were mine. Yes there were others in specific roles in my life and experiences, but their memories and what they reflect on those experiences are specific to them and not necessarily the same as mine. We may remember that time differently because we each have a different filter of life experiences.
These pictures represent the fleetingness of life to me. They are a testimony of a life having been lived. We get to see a glimpse into a fraction of time of another person’s journey of life. Just as someday, my grandchildren won’t know who my parents were, nor the family stories of that generation. The time will come that my grandchildren’s children won’t know my story. If they get to meet me in their life, I will have been the old lady who was a grandma to their parent. They most likely won’t have an interest at that point, in the stories and experiences that I have had. Perhaps they will be able to get a glimpse into my life from the pictures I am working to preserve. I hope so. I hope that someday these pictures that are so precious to me will become precious to my children and the next generations. We are so blessed to have these.
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about all the People who have occupied this earth that nobody remembers today. The only testimony of their having lived, is a gravestone or old records of birth, marriage and death. We don’t know what they looked like, what their gifts or dreams were. We don’t know what made them laugh or cry. I am so grateful for written history. As I have searched out my ancestry, discovery of specific talents or interests like writing that are documented in ancestors 10 generations ago, just make me in awe that God has woven these gifts into our generations for the time we would live. I am in awe that someone who I am related to through DNA that lived so many hundreds of years before me shared my interests and gifts. I wish I could know more than a snippet of time from their lives.
This awareness of the fragility and shortness of life has made me reflective. I am grateful for all that the previous generations have worked to build into the quality of life I have today. They built integrity and work ethics into their offspring. They worked to build a country of freedom, and worked to provide a better quality of life for their children. They overcame so many obstacles and demonstrated how to hold on to God. So while the details of their everyday lives are lost to this generation and the ones to come, the essentials, the building blocks of having a quality of life is not lost. They laid a foundation for the future generations to build on. God equipped them for their time to do this. I just hope that I have used my time as effectively in building for my children and grandchildren.
It’s important to remember. It’s important to honor the previous generations. It’s important to hear the stories of their lives so we understand and appreciate what each generation has instilled in us. When our lives are done, memories will fade, stories won’t be told. Hopefully someday they can search out our photos and marvel at what they see in them, as I have. The record of our having lived will be in God’s book of remembrance. Someday he will ask us about our lives and what we did with it. Did we use our time here wisely, did we help build another generation? Did we make a difference? Did we love? Did we share about the gift of His love with others? Someday, we will have the ultimate reunion with our families and we will be able to share our stories. We will laugh, and we will celebrate that we once lived on this earth. We will be grateful for our memories and be grateful that God made us to live when he did. We will see from his perspective what was accomplished during our lives and how we are all woven together in him.
In the meantime, I will continue my project in the hopes that it will have value someday to my children, grandchildren and future generations. It is a gift of love that I hope to leave them. Time is fleeting. It is gone before you know it. Treasure your life time here, make memories for your family to hold close to their hearts.