In the last ten days I have attended two memorial services for two different people I never met. In both situations, the loved one who passed away was a beloved parent/ grandparent who was fondly remembered with funny stories, family memories and appreciation for the impact that was made in the lives of many. Each service took place in completely different settings under completely different circumstances But as I listened, I was amazed at some striking similarities between the two that has left me contemplating the impact on my own life.
The first memorial service was for a beloved father and grandfather taken rather suddenly as a result of a health crisis. I learned that this man was known for his fishing, for his fine work ethic, and for being a friend to everyone. He was the grandpa that told funny stories to his grandkids, planned the family reunion each year, and checked out every new house his children and grandchildren purchased. One grandson, a military man, spoke of all the handwritten letters he had received from Grandpa throughout his life, including one long handwritten note he received when departing for a new assignment in Africa this January.
The second memorial service was for a precious mother and grandmother, taken suddenly due to a fall and resulting head injury. I learned that this lady was also a friend to everyone she met. She played games, did puzzles, crocheted afghans, helped her grandkids with math, and participated in a breakfast club every Tuesday at 10 a.m. Her grandson told how her home had a circular pattern that became a boys’ Nascar raceway with HotWheels for him and his friends. An old mattress at the bottom of her stairs provided the perfect landing spot for those same brave boys to swing out on a rope and drop onto the mattress below. Grandma made sure they had fun together and learned life lessons along the way too.
These two individuals never met. I never met either of them. But together their lives pointed out a truth that made me sad. The truth is this: We are losing our best gift, the most precious thing we can give to those we love. We are losing the gift of time. Time to be together without technology, without TV screens, without Facebook and phones. Time to play crazy games and tell silly stories. Time to sleep in sleeping bags on the living room floor and make waffles in our pajamas the next morning. Time to send handwritten letters to grandsons who are headed to Africa on military duty. Time to just be there.
However, the enigma in all this is that, in reality, we have the same amount of time as these grandparents did. The same twenty-four hours, the same seven days a week, the same 365 days a year. So in truth, we are not losing the best gift. We are giving it away. We have allowed video games and media to take the place of Nascar races and mattress jumping in the dining room. Video games don’t make messes. Social media is fast and easy and doesn’t require a stamp. So we send a short text or post a quick comment instead of mailing a letter that could be saved forever.
So, Mr. Eugene (Jake) Hoffman and Mrs. Annabelle Henry – though I never met you, I want you to know you have touched my life. I have been challenged to evaluate how I am investing my time. I plan to pull out the sleeping bags and have a slumber party in the family room with my daughter sometime soon, and I will be writing a handwritten letter or two over the next several weeks. Thank you for touching so many people with a simplicity of living that is striking. I don’t want to lose the best gift – the gift of time. You have shown me the way.