by Sharon Nelsen
“Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her.”
As I journey through the “fading away” years of my life, I am more aware of the desire to pass on a heritage that does not fade. During the month of November, I am caught up remembering all of those who have completed their earthly sojourn and “faded” into resplendency.
I want to remember as God remembered Abraham and saved his nephew Lot from death in Sodom (Gen. 19.29); as God remembered Rachel and rescued her from the humiliation of infertility (Gen. 30.22) and how God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and saved Israel from enslavement to Pharoah. (Exodus 2.23-25) I hope for remembrance that is more than an intellectual concept; more than extraction of an entry from my brain; I want to remember in the fullness of action as we do in every Eucharist we celebrate in remembrance of Jesus who tells us “as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13.15b).
Biblical remembering is durable because it carries the acts as well as the thoughts of loving kindness into each new generation.
As my family gathered to celebrate my husband’s birthday this month, I wanted to add to our usual ritual which was for each person at the table to voice a quality they perceived in the birthday person. After the sharing and grace, the dinner is carried in from the warming oven and the meal continues.
What my husband and I decided to do was to name a particular quality, gift, or virtue we experienced in each grandparent, each parent, and in each sibling who has died. As we named the attribute, we shared how we have lived out that same quality—how we “remember” in the fullest sense.
Our oldest son remembered that when he was nine years old, his paternal grandfather, who made the cross-country trip to visit us annually, had sat with him and taught him how to watch a baseball game on television. This was amazing news to both my husband and myself and certainly shed light on the way our son gets into a televised game and inspires all of us to “participate.” He remembered that both of my parents always included the children in the family games; they found a card game or a board game that they could enjoy with all age levels and that was the after dinner ritual when we visited them. Our son lives out that same family-building attribute—forming in the process avid and skilled game-playing grandchildren. He taught his children how to count by playing card games with them.
The story telling went on and on through the meal which was an answer to prayer for me. It is a beginning ritual that we will continue as we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas and for future family celebrations.
As I think about remembering, I think about three ways to remember: 1) I developed a gift and I tell you about it; 2) I developed a gift and I give you the benefits of that gift; 3) I developed a gift and I teach you how to develop your gift as I pass the fruits of my gift on to you, my beloved.
How do we pass on wisdom? We remember our own family story and live it as we tell it so that our own future generations inherit an ever-stronger foundation. We acknowledge that all good education, all good catechetical teaching, all good rules and disciplines of religion flower from real, tangible, healthy heritage—loving kindnesses that do not fade because they are rightly remembered.
Copyright 2011, Sharon Nelsen