Every so often, I play The Friday Five at Rev Gal Blog Pals, a blog ring of Rev Gals and their friends. Today is Jan’s last day as a host to the Friday Five. Here’s her challenge for the day:
“Our lives entail many beginnings and endings of periods or chapters. We can look back and see where we said “Hello” and “Goodbye.” Today please look at those times in your life.”
Today I look back in gratitude for the gifts I’ve received from people and places that no longer are a part of the warp and woof of my daily life:
The cabin my great uncles built on the shore of Gull Lake just north of Brainerd, Minnesota. They, like my cousins pictured here, came from North Wales. They worked the railroad and managed to save enough money and time to buy this land where they then built this cabin.
I don’t see what you likely see when you look at this photograph. I see a weathered cabin. I smell chicken and dumplings being ladled from the pot simmering on the stove. I hear my great uncle’s voice as he tells yet another funny story. Then I look a little to the left and I see the weathered face of his wife Sophie. She’s working the hand pump to get water for the dishes. I remember their life in that cabin and the moments my young life intersected with theirs. And I remember the moment I first said goodbye–the starlit night I learned my great uncle had died. My Dad pulled me close, told me Uncle Earnest was dead, and then pointed to the stars in the clear night sky. “He’s up there now–sparkling as much as he did when he was here.” A goodbye becomes a hello.
My colleague and friend and teaching buddy who nurtured me through those first few years of teaching. How she would have enjoyed the film reviewed in today’s New York Times–Grandma. Mary introduced me not only to the ins and outs of teaching teenagers but also to Gloria Steinam, The Feminine Mystique and The Second Sex. The list could go on and on: Woijaweja–the Lakota notion of both having something and the obligation to share what you have, historians of the west, women in the west, her father’s Hungarian goulash, stories of growing up with more brothers and sisters than I had cousins! Here’s Mary with a young teacher she mentored. Though Mary died over two years ago, she’s still mentoring me and, I imagine, all who knew and loved her. Do we ever really say “Goodbye”?
This year I said farewell to another mentor and friend. My professor and pier-walking, Bible loving friend, Dr. Luise Schottroff. Luise taught me to love the Bible enough to struggle with it. I still see her, little green Gideon Bible in hand, turning to me and saying, “‘Forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors.’ Susan, hear this in the context of indebtedness that marked the lives of those Jesus taught.” She was translating the Gospel of Matthew for the then upcoming Bible in the Language of Justice. She was teaching me the Bible through the lens of a woman who hungered justice. Her books are always close at hand. I often turn to Jesus of Nazareth when I sit down to write a sermon. Her voice still echoes in my mind, in the words I preach and, I hope, in the life I lead.
And yet as I recall the people and places to whom I have bid farewell, I’m struck by the notion that each of those relationships began with “hello”. Here are some “hello’s” that are marking this unfolding era of my life:I’m diving in to daily swims and water walks. I find that time in the water really does restore my soul.
I’m opening those cabinet doors and beginning to work through my “stash”. There are two quilts in the making now and three more in design. My husband jokes about my third career. I’m just cutting down my stash of fabric so there will be room for more. “Hello, Stonemountain and Daughter, New Pieces and Britex. What treasures do you have in store for me?”
I look at this card every morning when I sit down to read and pray and meditate. Every time I look up, it takes on a different meaning. At this point in my life, after living in many places and living into many different vocations, I find myself saying “Hello” once again to change and changes in my life and in the lives of those I love. It’s often scarry to meet change face to face. And yet who knows what adventures await just around the corner of change.