Thursday, November 5, 2009
Crossing the Line from "Memory" to "Imagination"
Today is someone's birthday...well actually, I'm sure that there are literally millions who will use this day to mark the celebration of their birth. But today is a day to celebrate the life of someone who has a very special place in my life. Someone, who through the miraculous grace of God, that I have grown to know and love in a deep and meaningful way over these past several years.
It amazes me at times how some of our greatest treasures are right in front of us but we fail to see them. As I sit here and reflect as I write this (brushing back the tears while the music of "Coldplay" plays in the background), I recognize the brevity and frailty that is this thing that we call life. A friend asked me at breakfast the other morning how I was doing. And as is my usual casual response, I said "everything is good, thanks for asking." But this friend is a bit deeper than that. He challenged me and forced me to think about how things are "really going?"
It didn't take long for the reality of my circumstances to well up inside me. I shared with him that I find myself in a position these days of having all of the material blessings (and more) that I need. Actually, they are overflowing. I'm able to receive the joy that one feels when they can give away more to others than they spend on themselves. But the adage that "money can't buy happiness" is proven out in my life. There is an emptiness in my life that "stuff" can't fill.
And so, I had to share with my friend the lonliness that I oft times feel. The loss of deep and intimate relationship in my life is often times a heavy weight that can't be filled with "stuff" that we can purchase. And that is why I celebrate this day with my sister.
She has done something for me that most people would never be willing to do...for me or for anyone else. Through a slow (and I'm sure painful at times) process, she has slowly revealed her life to me and invited me into relationship. And through her words (written and spoken), I've come to know her in ways that few people ever get to know someone else. And one of the gifts in that is that I have the opportunity to share who she really is with others...including my own family.
Several weeks ago as I visited with my brother and his new wife, for the first time I think he finally started to "get it" about my sister and her writing. We were talking about an incident in her life when she first entered what she discovered later was a cult. Like many of us, she was at a point in her life where she was lost and searching for something with meaning. As a means to separate my sister from her past (and the evils of this world), they had her destroy some of the most meaningful "stuff" in her life. This included an extensive record collection that was in some ways priceless. It was the destruction of these records that was the initial focus of our conversation.
But I had the opportunity to share what Paul Harvey might have called "the rest of the story." Included in the "stuff" that went into the bonfire that evening were the things of her past. Her childhood diaries. Some of her early writing. Awards and recognitions from her childhood. Memorabilia that had been carefully packed and moved from place to place. No one can put a price on those things. And unlike the vinyl records, they can never be replaced. She lost the physical reminders of some of the most meaningful memories of her past.
Memory - "an organism's ability to store, retain and recall information" (Wikipedia)
As I shared that part of her story with my brother, I could see something "click" as he said, "I didn't know any of that." And it opened the door for me to share more of my sister's life with my brother. A part of her life that I never knew as it was occuring. It took him past his memories of one specific incident to see it through a different lens...the eyes that were actually there. I think that he, like I have, crossed a line that day. He moved from a "memory" to an "imagination". From a "recollection" to an "understanding.
Imagination - "the ability to form mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge. The basic training for imagination is the listening to storytelling" (Wikipedia)
Over the past two years, I've come to discover what is truly important in this life. It's not the "stuff" we accumulate. It's not the money we have in the bank. It's not even our acccomplishments for which we receive great acclaim. It's all about relationships. A relationship with a God who loves us beyond measure. It's the relationships that we are willing to take the time to invest in. It's the willingness to risk with those that we love. Risk sharing the truth of our lives...of revealing our pain, our failures, our demons.
So...today as I share in the celebration of my sister's birthday, I should be sending her a gift. But instead, I'm thanking her for her gift to me. The gift of love...of truth...of revelation...of her sharing...of her words. Thank you for helping me across the "line".
I love you!!
Photo from Flickr