1949. Walgreens Drug Store on 8th and Congress AvE, Austin, TX.
An 18-year-old tall, skinny, Air Force corporal named Charlie, comes in to his night job as soda jerk. At the cash register is Marian, a beautiful, blue-eyed, dark haired, high school senior. The first chance he gets to speak to this goddess, his opening line is, “I’m going to marry you!” And so, the story goes on for 64 years of marriage, 5 kids, moving to countless homes at many bases, serving in two wars, Korea and Vietnam, and Cold War assignments in Greenland and Europe.
After a childhood with no roots, and traveling the world as an adult, we settled down the street from my parent’s home. I asked my Dad why we did all the moving, especially uprooting to a new city when he was only going to a 9-month school or “War College,” and Dad’s answer was that he never wanted to be separated from my mother. Any sacrifice was worth staying together as a family. After all, he famously said, “Family is Everything!”
Dad gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life for his country when Agent Orange, the toxic chemical sprayed everywhere in Vietnam, finally caught up to him. He optimistically thought he could beat it, but one day after four years of chemotherapy, the doctor said, “that’s all we can do for you,” And way too early the multiple myeloma took him away from us.
Pop, as the grandkids call him, was a good man, a faithful believer, and although imperfect and career driven like men of his times, he loved and protected his family well. Now I remember Pop with the help of the many stories he told. I also remember a time of doubting who he really was, and asked him to tell me his encounter with Christ–was it personal, was it more than obligation? I don’t remember the details of his story now, I wish I did, but I remember clearly the day he told me that his passion and purpose in life was to teach people the Word of God and encourage their faith in Christ. Near the end of his life, I remember him asking a family member, “What have you decided about Jesus?”
I remember you, Pop!
REMEMBERING AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. St. Teresa of Avila inspired a meditation practice called “Recollection,” in which you “re-collect” memories, images, and experiences of God’s presence that were powerful and life-changing. In the practice, you remember those moments by returning to them using your imagination, not words, and recall the details with your all your senses. As you remember, allow a symbol of the encounter to fill your awareness, such as a warm embrace, light, or image. As the symbol comes up in your memory, it allows you to remember and return to the active and continuing presence of God in your life.
The Psalmist says, “My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you.” (42:6) Recollections of high moments now past rise up in the Psalmist to help him through the disappointment in his present isolation from God. The memories of those intimate encounters encourage believing, confident patience: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (42:11)
In my practice of recollection, amazing and grace-filled moments with Jesus have returned to my thoughts. Like my Dad, one of these very personal sacred encounters, was the voice of God in the Scriptures giving me passion and purpose: “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I will give peoples in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:4) These words have opened my heart to his love not only for me, but for the peoples of the world he loves. My symbol for the encounter is a train compartment where I envisioned Jesus exchanging his place at the throne of God to come live as a man among us. I remember often and seek to live in adventurous obedience.
I remember you, my salvation and my God.