I am always losing things. Always. My keys, my kids, my mind. I’m just a scattered, messy girl. I can never remember where I have put stuff! But whenever I lose something, I find something else. Like when I am looking for my keys in the bottom of my purse, I find my favorite lip gloss I bought last summer. (It stinks because the lip gloss is usually expired.) Or when I am looking for that earring back, I find the battery to the kid’s remote control car. (because earring backs and batteries belong in the same place, right?)
I’ve lost some important things lately, and they have all landed me in the same place: a church surrounded by people from my past. I have been to 3 funerals in the last few years of people I loved dearly: my father, my grandmother, and my grandfather. It’s a tragedy to me; however, in the process of losing these precious people, I found something else. I found the memories of my childhood, the history and nostalgia of what makes me me. For each of these funerals, I spent some extended time in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, grieving and visiting with dear ones. I drove down old streets, sat with old people, listened to and told stories with family and friends and remembered. I remembered who I am and where I have come from.
I remembered that I grew up going to my grandfather’s country church to hear “Just as I am” played for 3 stanzas so that the lost could come down front for salvation. I remembered that cross-stitching was an art that my grandmother taught me and we would sit for hours and craft. I remembered that dad loved Mountain Dew and would sit in an old folding chair with buddies covered in grease stains from hours under the hood of a car. I remembered that VBS was where I met Jesus at age 9 and soon after my grandfather baptized me on Easter evening. I remembered Wednesday night suppers and pink foam rollers on Saturday nights so my hair was curly for Sunday School. I remembered how much I loved hymnals and Jesus and choirs and homemade lemonade with my great grandfather on his back porch.
I remembered how strong and faithful my family is to our tribe and we all stick together and when we lose one it hurts us all. I remembered snuggling up close with my grandmother for sleepovers and fresh made biscuits in the morning. I remembered youth group and lock-ins and my crazy friends and dancing with brushes for microphones. I remembered mom having us at church whenever the doors were open because she cared for the outcome of my soul…and it is well with my soul.
All of these memories and deposits made me who I am. There are many more, too many to write. Too many beautiful conversations and hugs with wise ones who had deep wrinkles and love in and around their eyes. For some reason, this last visit, this last funeral, made all these moments so real and so vivid. They were like a perfume in the air that I was grateful for. I missed them at the time. Missed the importance, the necessity of them. Tradition and memory are like hot soup on a really cold day, you don’t appreciate them until your body has an ache and a craving.
I think I’ve had an ache and a craving lately. I didn’t realize it was there. I’ve gotten a little lost over the years, not sure exactly where I fit in, who I am, what I believe about certain things. I’ve lost that confidence of my 16 year old self. At 16, I could win the race, because I was surrounded by this army-family that believed in me, that had poured tradition and memory and love and Jesus into me all those years. I could fly as high as I wanted according to them. They had placed treasures in me, beautiful treasures of faith, love and hope and I had no doubts.
But we all leave the nest and the world grabs a hold of us, and doubt and sin and loss place their ugly fingerprints on us and we forget. We lose something. Maybe we lose ourselves.
Thank goodness though, when we lose something, maybe ourselves, we find something. I found a lost piece of me this week, at a church, at my Papa’s funeral. I found what I had forgotten, who I am, what was put inside of me. What my grandparents and parents and aunt and uncles and cousins put inside of me, what my pastors and church and friends put inside of me, and that I still have an army-family that loves and believes in me. That’s who I am, full of tradition and memory, and country churches and hymns and salvation. That’s what inside of me and I love it. I had forgotten, I had lost it, but I am so glad I found it.