75

Dylan & Irene 2In the midst of me sharing about my lessons learned from my excursion into solo parenting for a few days, I would be remiss not to mention someone who had the greatest influence on me as a parent: my mom.  Today happens to be her birthday as well, so my heart is heavy with thoughts of her as it would have been her 75th birthday today.

I miss her very much, but who I am and how I relate to my children is due in large part to the influence that she had on me.  My mom had incredible talents and abilities that she put aside in order that she could stay home and raise my brother and me.  Fortunately, we were able to survive on that, not something that is easy to do in today’s culture.  Things are so expensive and it becomes difficult for only one parent to work, even when the material expectations of the family are not as high as our culture may dictate or mandate.

I’ve heard it say that men generally marry their mothers and women generally marry their fathers.  In other words, they find someone who resembles (in trait) their father or mother.  My wife and I have had discussions about that and have both agreed that in many ways, I am very different from her father and she is very different from my mother.  At the same time, we’ve seen some striking similarities that lie deep within, specifically when it comes to character.  My wife resembles my mom in her heart and that is one of the things that attracted me to her.

My mom was always so loving and gentle with children.  That’s not to say that she never got mad, but she had a way with kids that was so evident.  That’s probably why she worked with children in the school system for over 25 years.  She was perceptive and could always see things in children that others might bypass.  My oldest son was the apple of her eye.  He was her first grandchild and I think he reminded her of me, whom she loved deeply.  She would get down on the floor and play with them, never one to shy away from whatever it is that children were doing.  She was “hands on” in her parenting.

During my time as “Solo Dad” for the weekend, I gained an even greater understanding of the need for that kind of “hands on” parenting.  It’s too easy to be “checked out” in our culture of gadgets and technology.  I find myself zoning out or wanting to run to a computer, tablet, or phone in the midst of moments that will soon pass me by.  When in doubt, my default position needs to orient myself towards my children, especially when it means getting down on the ground and playing whatever they are playing.

My mom always loved games.  We were a board game kind of family.  Scrabble.  Yahtzee.  Trivial Pursuit.  We loved to play games.  We also loved to do puzzles.  Both of these things are things that I have tried to instill into my children as well.  In fact, while my wife was away, we bought a new game that my boys have taken to.  While I type this, there is a halfway finished game of Disney Monopoly lying on the floor of my boys’ room.  These are the moments that I will cherish forever.

They are also the memories that I cherish about my mom and her mom before her.  I remember my brother sharing a memory at my grandmother’s memorial service that had to do with her passion for Scrabble.  That passion was passed on from her to my mom to me and now to my children.  All of us spent time doing puzzles, playing games, and enjoying one another’s company.  Even if we had had the internet, nothing would have compared to what we were experiencing.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, the legacy that we leave will carry on if we instill it properly.  Of course, that can easily be said of our faults and bad habits as well (but that’s a post for tomorrow).  For now, I will remember my mom today.  I will remember the way that she parented me, the way that she loved me, the way that she still lives on inside of me.  I can only hope that when she sees all of her grandchildren again that she will be proud of the job that I’ve done.  After all, I couldn’t have done it without her.

What Matters Most

2013-08-24 16.29.00As my brother and I have had to go through my parents’ stuff, we’ve had to determine what’s most important to us among all of their possessions.  My parents were very simple people, not into anything fancy.  They never really had a lot of expensive stuff around their house.  In fact, my mom always prided herself in seeing how long she could make something last.  Being a child of the depression, she would take such good care of things that those things would last significantly longer than they would for other people.

As I looked through a box that I had taken home with me the other night, I found some “treasures” that I had shared with my wife.  As we sat at the kitchen table, she said to me, “It’s kind of funny the things that you value the most.”  What she meant by that was that I wasn’t clinging to anything like money or expensive possessions, but instead the things that give a pretty clear picture of the character of my parents.

My father was a pastor for over 40 years, 36 of those years were spent in the same place, which is a feat in and of itself.  There are three things that I have found myself drawn to out of everything that I have found.  The first is a record of every wedding that my dad ever did.  He wrote down the date, the place, and the names of the bride and groom in a little notebook.  It’s kind of crazy to see my own name in there as well as the name of so many people who I have known over the years.  As the piano player for my dad’s church for many years, I actually took part in many of those weddings over the years.

Another thing that I found was a legacy book in which he answered many questions about his childhood, his upbringing, his schooling, his pastimes, his marriage, and other questions that I would have loved to have asked him in person.  I’m not exactly sure when he started answering all the questions, but I can tell you that it probably took him a good deal of time to fill out the whole book.  All of the information in there is fascinating and helpful for me and I expect that my kids will appreciate a lot of it too.

The third thing that I found which will take me a long time to go through is my father’s devotional journals for about a decade.  He logged the passage of Scripture that he read and jotted down a few thoughts of that passage.  Interspersed through those journals were prayer lists and even some of the actual prayers that he prayed for people.

These are the things that have been the most valuable to me as I cope with the loss of my parents.  These are the things that will help me to remember them for years to come.  These are the things that give me (and anyone else who sees them) a clear picture of who my parents were and what kind of character they possessed.  No, you can’t take it with you, but you’ve got to ask yourself, “What am I leaving behind?”

Statue

I had to go to the circuit court last week to take care of my dad’s affairs in probate.  The woman who helped me was so kind and caring.  She made small talk with me and the process was much less painful than I had thought it would be.  I thanked her for making it simple and she told me I should thank my dad.

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The process was painless until I got outside.  As I exited the building, an overwhelming feeling of loss came over me.  Every last thing that I do is exactly that, the last thing.  I am taking care of things for my dad for the last time and the gravity of the moment was intense.

Melancholics don’t need glum and dreary days to feel pensive.  It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining.  It had actually been dreary earlier on, but the skies opened up and the sun shone down as I approached Williamsburg (was there a hidden message there for me?).  As I approached my car, I passed a statue of a Native American.  I put some of my stuff in the car and I wanted to stretch the moment out longer.  I wanted to sit in the sunshine, soak it in, sit in my sadness and let it wash over me for a few moments longer.

So, I went over to the statue to read the plaque underneath.  It was Powhatan, whom the plaque said was responsible for the survival of the first settlement at Jamestown (do you think his ancestors might be pissed?).  Here was this statue, life-sized, standing above all who would come within its vicinity.  A man whom we read about in history books, at least if we’re from Virginia.  He played an integral part in survival for many who would go on to take advantage, abuse, and steal from his tribe and many others, or at least pave the way for more to come who would do those things.  But I digress.  Powhatan marks that spot and that statue will be there for a long time.

The contrasting picture was my visit to the cemetery later on.  As I approached the crypt where my parents are laid, the flowers were gone.  There was no evidence that just a week and a half ago that crypt had been opened to receive its second guest.  All that was there was a plate which still hadn’t been completed.  Names.  Dates.  A verse.  A cross.  Praying hands.  A saying.  That’s it.  No statue looming over all who would come near.  No description of what these two people had done.2013-05-02 09.23.16

It seemed a little unjust to me.  I didn’t know Powhatan.  How could I have?  He lived way before my time.  But I did know my mom and dad.  They had an influence on me and on many others.  Could we have said more on that plate than what we did?  Could we have given people a better picture of all that they had done?

Then I began to think, that’s not the job of a grave plate.  That’s my job.  That’s my legacy, actually, it’s their legacy living through me.  I will not forget.  I will remember.  I will live out that legacy and let others know the contributions that they made in my life, and so will others.  A statue is tall and cold, lifeless, unspeaking.  I am living and breathing, proclaiming, exemplifying what was invested into me by my parents.

There is no statue, but there is me, there are my children.  We are the monuments, the memorials of my parents as we live our lives through what they taught me, taught us.  My parents invested into people for the sake of Jesus Christ.  I invest in people for the same reason.  Christ has made a difference in my life, he made a difference in the lives of my parents.  It would be a crime for me not to proclaim something that has had such a significant impact on me.  I am a living legacy.  If you want to know my parents, get to know me.  I can tell you stories, or better yet, I can live out what they passed on to me.  That’s much better than anything a statue can do.Gibson grave plate