If our friends didn't know us better, they might have thought our house had become a scene from the A&E show Hoarders over the past several weeks. After closing down the storage unit to which we were holding the belongings of my deceased stepdad, we decided it best to put the remaining boxes in our home until we had a chance to sort through them and decide what to keep and what to let go of. It has made for a emotional and physical rollercoaster ride over the last month.
Opening each box seemed to reveal a little more of dad's story while we found a treasure of memories he had kept and moments we had even shared over the years. Good times while camping in the mountains and struggles during the hard times in the early 90's. I think the hardest box to open was the one that he had kept all the papers, memorial books, and pictures of those we lost in 1991 and 1994 - Grandpa Archie Cartier, Darren my stepbrother, my mother Debbie, and the news clippings & pictures from my car accident. Going through these old memories made it seem as though we were talking with the dead.
These conversations were not empty by any measure. No, there were glimpses into something that I had not seen so long ago. I was learning from the story of my past.
Death is not the end of ones story or voice. As I rediscovered my mom's old records and dad's Viking Record Player Table, I couldn't help but remember the many memories of putting on a record and sitting in front of the turn table while just listening to the music. Rare does it seem these days that we slow down to simply sit and listen to the music by itself; it is always treated as a soundtrack that plays in the background of our constant activity. It is as though we have all been inflicted with a bit of ADHD and in the constant need of activity and mental distraction. I found myself lost for awhile in the nostalgia of slipping the vinyl record out of its sleeve, starting the turn table up and listening to Boney M's 'Rasputin' once again. As a kid, it drove me nuts and I remember even asking my mom, "Please don't play that when I'm home." But today, her voice reached out of the depths of my soul to compel me in listening for just that moment.
Love conquers all in the amazing works of grace. I wasn't sure it was right to read my mom and dad's journals when I discovered their Marriage Encounter papers. Dad had kept them all. The ups the downs; it was all there. As I read of the many struggles they faced together, I chuckled to myself realizing that many of the issues they faced together are similar and reflective to the same issues Bonnie, my wife, and I face today. It was a strange comfort to think that the struggles my parents faced in marriage were no different from the ones my wife and I face and have experienced in past together ourselves. Reading of their struggles and the willingness of mutual submission for the sake of reconciliation brought a sense of assurance, when love is present, all relational mountains can be conquered. All other entries regarding the antics of parenting a smart mouthed little spoiled brat... well, we can forget those! ;)
We only see part of the story. Looking back, I began to realize that as a teenager, I could only see a small part of my family's story. While keeping myself busy in athletics, camping, sleepovers, and the long stays away from home at different places and time for many different reasons; I was realizing I did not see what was happening at home while I was away. I wondered, was this intentional? Should I not have been so absent minded to those blindings? Would it have made a difference had I been home or more aware of what was happening while I was away? While I can't necessarily answer those questions, I am realizing the importance this lesson has for my understanding today. There is always something in the story of life that we are not seeing. The only way to be able to see all of it, is by listening and learning from others who are part of that story with you. It is by honouring and caring for the relationships you have with others, both in past and the present, that you can truly begin to hear the whole and complete story of life.