Thursday, April 03, 2014

God, the pattern-keeper

I'm thinking a lot about the past during these days of Lent ("That's a typical old-person statement!" my son would say). But it's true that the older we get. the more the past sometimes comes into focus: it's not just a muddy river of flowing time that has washed us up in the present. Memories begin to stand out in sharper relief. Eddies and whirlpools appear in the current. Rocks peek above the flow. Patterns emerge

Our bodies, of course, carry some of our patterns. One of the readings in my book of reflections for Lent, Lent Is Not Rocket Science, discusses genetic patterns. The writer notes that, although the many different types of cells comprising our bodies die and are replaced at varying rates, our most essential physical patterns, encoded in our DNA, remain pretty much the same, preserving our uniqueness. I am short and have gray eyes; these patterns will not change, though the cells in my skeleton and in my eyes will be renewed over time.

People also build their lives according to patterns of beliefs, behaviors, and predilections. My grandparents, for example, loved gardening. Pop-Pop raised absolutely killer tomatoes -- I can still see them, lining the chain-link fence on the sunny side of the backyard, waiting for me to gather them in.  At the top of the slope, he grew peaches, beans, and rhubarb. Granny's thing was flowers: we had lilac bushes in the upper yard, roses in a long bed in the lower yard, and banks of hydrangeas, always stunningly blue, outside the back door.  Peonies, ants and all, graced the sunny side of the house.

My mother, on the other hand, killed plants with a glance. But she could do all types of needlework at an expert level. She also played piano beautifully in her youth. Needlework and piano were part of her pattern.

Dad loved boats and the water. As a young boy, he spent every summer in his little rowboat on the Elk River near Charlestown, Maryland.  After serving in World War II, he was just a year too old for the Merchant Marine Academy, which had been a dream of his. As an older person, he often sat in a park overlooking the Delaware River, observing the freighters going downstream into the bay. He could identify a ship's country of registry with one glimpse of its maritime flag.

These were some of the patterns of my family, which made each person precious and unique, to me and to God. I believe these patterns are preserved somehow, as we pass into the next life. I believe we will recognize each other, though I can't imagine what that will look like.

I believe our patterns are safe with God.

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