"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Healing Slices From A Cut Deck

Sometimes a slice of the past comes to us and strikes hard, cutting like the edge of a worn ace dealt from an old pinochle deck. However, these times remembered may open us up and heal us… the effect depending on the giver, the recipient and the grace of God. Such graceful slicing renders my heart this day as I pour over family photos recently received from my cousin. They trace my history by showing pictures of my family members that go back over a century, even to the days just after the American Civil War.
First noticed among them, however, is a picture taken at the beginning of this present century. It is one where I stand tall, elderly and bearded, amid other family members when we gathered at the burial of a favorite uncle. I will always remember Uncle Joe Briar. I remember him for his playing of pinochle. I think of his home-made ice cream, and his laughing chuckle belted from a hairy chest clothed in carpenter’s overalls. And fondly, I remember him for his wrestling with my cousin and myself in the backyard of my great grandparent’s home after we had respectfully buried my great grandfather. For we had buried the dear and departed William Burton Beam, and Uncle Joe’s family-style bear hugs changed that somber day into an afternoon filled with childish revelry and family warmth. Though beloved grandpa had gone to heaven, you see.., Uncle Joe had taught that we would be okay.

Standing beside me in the more recent picture I see my sister Cynthia. She has now died as well, and I struggle in my aging humanity to keep her from becoming just one single card placed in the shuffling of a multiple-deck of life. Yet there is no Uncle Joe to cradle us now, and I just wrestle in my spirit with God. For you see, these all rest with William Burton Beam, and are remembered by my faltering finitude. As the years pass I find myself rejoicing that though I and my memories may fade, God shall not forget. That is his promise, and I cling to it for I love them all deeply.
But now as I write these words, sweet memories begin to emerge, for I see Cindy vividly in my mind’s eye. She stood as a child, this loving sister, in a late evening’s cellar stairwell. She stood down there low on the steps holding my supper out to me, for I had been banished from the house and kitchen. I had come home too late from playing backlot basketball. The memory of mom’s anger and Cindy’s care is likened to God’s strong Law which properly condemns, and the gracious Gospel’s forgiveness. All this is personified through the sweet sisterly face remembered.

Amid the pictures I also find my parents, Muriel and Clyde. The picture was taken early in their married years. It was during WW2 (c.1943), just a year or so after my birth. I know the approximate date not by my mother’s youthful beauty nor by my father’s Navy uniform, but because of family stories told about her toiling in the Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine factory in Hartford, CT. I know of the time you see, for the picture you see clearly shows her work uniform worn proudly like the historic “Rosey the Riveter”. Mom's beauty while at work is thus emblazoned in my remembrance, a card lovingly turned face up by any machinery that mimics the hum of a Westinghouse wringer washer lulling me to sleep as I lay beneath her feet when she did our laundry in Scranton, PA. Yes, now I remember… now it becomes clear. Thank you blessed cousin for you have given me tears and treasures of days gone by. And especially thank you Almighty God, for through these thinly sliced moments dealt to me in time, you have shown me to be richly wrapped like your Son, in the warmth of swaddling clothes.