My Grandchildren call me ‘Papere’ – I mention this so you can follow the conversation:
“Papere how old will you be on your birthday?”
“You are older than Papa.”
“Yep, just like he is older than you.”
“Will you die?”
“Someday – but I have asked Jesus not to come for me before you and your brothers are teenagers so it will be easier for you.”
“That’s nice, but you might die tonight!”
I chuckled inside and reassured her I was not planning on that and she immediately switched to telling me her stuffed toy Piglet was wearing out and how she needed a new one!
The next day a brother priest died and as I was chatting about him with a member of the community who is a couple of years older than I am and we reminisced about the days, now over forty years ago, when the community was not quite twenty years old and most of us not much older.
In those days, save for a few weeks in the summer when the river water was warm enough for bathing and we only had one temperamental fresh water well, only the women’s dormitory had enough hot water for showers so after Saturday supper, putting a warning sign on the stairs leading to the dorm, we men had our weekly shower; in the winter months, lasting the greater part of the year in that northern clime, because the community was so poor the small oil heater would be turned off in our dorm from dawn when we headed to the main compound until evening when we returned from the day’s labour and communal life; the chapel was a small affair above the dining room/library and as the community grew the floor started to sag so on Sunday’s most of us would walk to the village church until a decade later we were able to build a large enough church on the property.
Of course there are many more memories but what I recall with immense joy is that when we were few and so poor life was simpler!
My spiritual director is currently storming heaven for a miracle, namely that I will get to spend what years remain in a more traditional hermitage out in the countryside – one without all the modern comforts of my current urban abode – granted it is in an old building in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of downtown but it really is palatial for a hermit, Lord have mercy!
My Granddaughter would like me to move into the new family home in the countryside and assures me the finished basement would be ideal – however I think not – while I might accept living in a cave it is unlikely there would be much solitude with three very loving grandchildren living in the same house!
Each of us as we grow older have a larger and larger storehouse of memories and recently I have begun to see a connection with: “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” [Mt. 13:52]
Memories are occasion to give thanks for our very existence, for all blessings, yes perhaps also to beg forgiveness for resistance to grace, thus we bring out the old.
The new – well each moment is a new gift of life and grace which Jesus brings to us and is the opportunity in that same moment of gratitude to love one another all the more.