These past few years have truly been a “stroll down Memory Lane.” In June of 2003, I attended the thirty-fifth reunion of my high school graduating class, then their picnic the next day. Some classmates I recognized right away, as the years had been good to them. But guess what? As for others, I had to view their senior photo they were wearing on their lapels, before I knew who they were. Time had changed many of them beyond recognition. Some of the men had lost their hair. Others had grey hair who had ANY hair! Many of the ladies had greyed too, and a few of them, not surprisingly, were now maintaining their hair color out of a certain bottle. All of us had a great time, reuniting after many years, and sharing memories of by-gone days. Sadly, too, of course, there was a poster with photos of students now deceased. That part of the occasion was sobering, to be sure.
Then in April of 2004, I conducted a gospel meeting for the Oak Grove Heights church in Paragould, Arkansas. This too was a special time for me, since both sides of my family hail from this general area. While there, I met a cousin I never saw before. I also visited four cemeteries, one of which contained the graves of my parents. The other three had various relatives and past acquaintances buried there. Like my school reunion, these visits produced solemn moments. The relatives still alive, would you believe, had gotten older! Some had grown feeble. My, how things had changed!
May of 2004 found me in another gospel meeting; this one in East Alton, Illinois. During that week, Christians I knew from my youth up visited there, thus, reuniting with me. It was good to see them. One elderly woman remembered me when I was first born. It was another time for recollections.
Then there was the annual family reunion on my mother’s side which, for many years, took place in Van Buren, Missouri, but now is conducted in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. This always occurs the last weekend in July. Like any reunion, memories were shared, along with catching up to do from the previous year(s). This gathering has taken place for over 45 consecutive years now. You know, it’s truly something how the relatives now attending have really CHANGED since its beginning! Too, the same identical people are not attending anymore!
Indeed, in these last few years, many memories of this writer’s life have flowed like a river. It is life’s usual cycle. Time passes. Life and people change. People die. New generations are born. Then, the cycle begins anew. Like most all other experiences in life, there are lessons to draw.
Life is so short. We are here today and gone tomorrow (or some day after that). We grow old gradually. Our physical body alters by reason of time and age. We never know when we see another day if that will be our final one, but we know it will be one day. James 4:13-14 says, “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
At our birth, there was no guarantee how long we would be given upon God’s earth. It was not at all certain that we would reach the age we are now. People of all ages die, and all who live long enough grow elderly and SURELY die! Nothing in life stays the same. It is birth, change, death; birth, change, death: etc. The same people living today are not the same ones living ten years ago, five years ago, one year ago, or even yesterday. Ecclesiastes 1:4 says, “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” The earth survived long before any of us were born, and it will do so after we depart this life, until God ends time.
On the other hand, what is life without memories? Though like anyone else, while I’ve had bad memories come to mind periodically, I’ve also had many, many more good ones resurface. After one lives awhile, you remember many styles and fads that have come and gone, and some resurface from time to time. A lot of memories often hit either “out of the blue,” or when reuniting with a friend or relative. You recall the funny—-the sentimental—-the tragic—-the embarrassing—-the shenanigans—the events you attended—-the successes—-the failures—-the regrets—-places you lived—-places visited—-and you miss more and more those departed loved ones, both family member and friend. Their departure has left a void in one’s life.
Then in May of 2005, I visited the congregation where I grew up in St. Louis. So many of those saints I had known there in the past had gone on to their final reward. Most of the few still remaining have grown very aged. Three verses of scripture come to mind on this: In Psalm 116:15, the writer says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Next, in Revelation 14:13, John declares, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” Then, there is Numbers 23:10, where Balaam says of Jacob in the latter part of the verse, “…Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end by like his.” What a wonderful church where I attended, what great elders, preachers, and teachers who influenced me, and what constant encouragement as a song leader I received from ever so much of the membership! I wonder if I will ever fully realize how abundantly blessed I was! Of course, I owe a lot to my parents who tried to teach me right from wrong. Who could fault them for that?
I love life, as I hope the reader does too. In spite of some people whose paths I wished I had never crossed, still, there are so many more whom I’m glad I met in my life. However, there are dandelions and thorns one must endure while on this earth. For me, life has contained so much more good than bad. I am most thankful to God for this.
Count your blessings, gentle reader. When you do, you will most likely find your baskets overflowing. Live life to the fullest in all areas; but live it for the Lord, for one day, this physical life will stop for you and this writer. Live, love and laugh. Have a sense of humor, for those are the weapons of the angels.
To all the young people reading this article, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). The latter part of Revelation 2:10 says, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” May Heaven be the final home for all of you at last!
(Edited from the bulletin “The Ozark Weekly Messenger,” published weekly for the Eagle Rock Road Church of Christ in Branson, Missouri—-October 24, 2004—-PN)