It comes without a notice. One moment it wasn’t there, and the next, it has barged in and planted itself firmly in my head.
It was a simple moment – tipping my head back as I stretched from my reading. The corner of a table looms in my vision as I stare at ceiling. I could have hit my head on that, I think.
Then a specific memory hits me instead:
My aunt and uncle’s house.
A college graduation.
A nightstand next to a bed with a sharp corner.
But it’s technically not my memory. It’s a memory of a story.
My mom told me the story after the fact. How my grandpa was sleeping in the room across from my parents at my aunt and uncle’s house while visiting Beaver Falls for one of my siblings’ college graduations. He rolled over in the night and hit his head on the corner of the nightstand. He didn’t want to bother anyone, so he took care of the situation himself in the middle of the night, while everyone else slept on, unknowing until the morning. He was always like that: not wanting to be in anyone’s way, even at the expense of his own pain or embarrassment. I think I get a little bit of that from him.
But there’s never just one memory. One memory has a string attached with all the rest tumbling behind. Then it’s a flood of memories that I can’t – and don’t want to – stay on top of. One memory always leads to another:
Watching my grandpa’s profile as we rode in his blue truck through his fields as he threw bubble gum to the prairie dogs.
Getting off the bus after school and seeing my grandpa’s car in the driveway on my birthday.
Grandpa flying 1400 miles to see all my siblings graduate from college despite being in his late 80s.
Grandpa surprising everyone by driving 800 miles by himself to see my oldest nephew baptized.
Hearing my grandpa promise me that he’d be at my college graduation as I talked to him for the last time on his 90th birthday.
Though he was always a short and frail man, he was the strongest man I’ve ever known. He had a strong voice and a twinkle in his eye, and a love for his God and his family. He lived 13 years after the death of wife, which he did because he knew he had too, not because he wanted to live without his dear wife. But he made it a life worth living. As the only grandparent for all of his grandchildren, he visited them as frequently as he could, despite living hundreds of miles from all of them. He gave generously, without thought of himself. He loved horses, and continued riding them far past the point when his children thought he should have been.
He simply loved.
So many people nowadays are so focused on the future, but I feel we’ve forgotten about the importance of remembering the past. We shouldn’t dwell there, but it’s good to take a moment to think about those who have gone before us and how they lived their lives faithfully. Sometimes we have to look backwards before we can see clearly enough to look ahead. I know I am the person I am today because of the way Philip Kennedy loved me. So for right now I’m going to let myself swim in the memories.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”