Updated: Mar 2, 2021
I’ve been looking at old family pictures. Some warm my heart but at the same time give me a sense of loss for good times now gone. I see the faces of our kids when they were two, three, seven and eight years old. Those days slipped away so easily, so quickly. At the time I think I did not savor them, did not appreciate how quickly they would melt away. Now we are separated from them by decades. It’s not bad, but it tugs on my heart. I wish I could have been more attentive, celebrating every day, every moment of those young lives.
Then there are the pictures of uncles, aunts, cousins, as well as grandparents, and my Mom and Dad. The grandparents have been gone for many years. But I still remember them well. As I scan decades-old pictures I can see the much younger faces of my mother and father, and their brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts, I realize they once were young, too. But I can still hear their voices, see their smiles, just as familiar as ever. Those recordings are firmly imprinted in my memory.
Many of the cousins who show up are gone from this world, too. When I realize that, I get the feeling that a whole world is gone, the world of my memories. I think of the birthday parties when we would get together and the Christmas gatherings when my twin cousins, Wes and Les would play four-hands piano by ear. Uncle Hank would provide some Christmas cheer, a wine cooler everyone shared, including the little kids like myself. The gifts were passed around by another cousin, the oldest on the Hagemeyer
side of my family. Aunt Mary would serve us a big “lunch” about 10:30, late on Christmas Eve when we had finished the music and opened gifts. And now, when I look at those pictures, I realize that out of the whole circle of perhaps fifteen individuals, I am the only one alive today, except for a toddler, my oldest cousin’s first born who is now in his 60's. So it is a “world that once was.” I am peeking back through the folds of time into that world.
Some pictures I have inherited from my parents are very old. They are peopled with faces I barely remember, those granduncles and grandaunts from Iowa or Nebraska I met as a child. But they too deserve to be appreciated. So I am attempting to label as many as I can and scan them into electronic albums to pass on to our kids. If I don’t do that they will only be mysterious faces without names and most likely just get dumped when we are gone. If I label them, perhaps the next generations will appreciate them as real people who lived through their own perilous times, and laid foundations for our life today.
Other things I am pawing through are high school graduation folders and those fancy announcements we paid good money for. I toss them into the waste basket. Some memories are good, and others a little hollow. But as I dump them I know my own time is slowly slipping away, too.
Now, what am I to do with this melancholy? First, I just let it be. I think my somber feelings honor my ancestors who loved me even when I was too immature to appreciate their love. Then too, I am grateful for the bushels of blessings that God has given me through these people. I am thankful God has preserved my health so I can savor those memories. I want to make good use of my added years, enjoy the new generation I have helped to create, celebrate their achievements and love them in every day that will some time be a memory.
Finally, as I am given more years of health than my ancestors, I want to use my days of sunshine to bless our neighbors, our children, and their children who are right now making pictures that will someday require an explanation for the next generation.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 RSV
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer