I open the door to his room and look in. It’s now empty, featureless, except for the telltale pinholes and shadowed outlines where framed memories once hung.
For him, it had been a palette of history. Old friends and family visited him each day in two-dimensional stasis in photos on the wall. Some were sepia, others black and white, but his memories were in living color. Recollections of warm experiences, forgotten treasures, tender moments, became his daily bread.
This was a man with hands bearing witness to hard summers of Alaskan fishing. This was a father who worked long hours into the evening, and again on Sundays, to count the cost of Christian education. This was a husband with eyes for only one woman in the world.
His will to go on a daily stroll had long since got up and left. No matter. He rocked gently throughout each day, walking through time with fond reminiscence tied to each face on the wall. They were gone but not forgotten. At four-score and sixteen, he was the only one left — the last of his tribe.
But the memories sustained him. As his outer façade faded and physical health ebbed, the past became his present. He was like so many of his generation, the Greatest Generation someone once observed, who fought for a future, our future — my future. He was my father.
The one who instilled so many blessings in my life is now still. Our last lucid hours together were spent listening to music, including one of his favorites — Scandinavian sweetheart Sissel, singing “Climb Every Mountain” in her native Norwegian. We didn’t know then that he’d be gone two days later.
He now rests for a transformative moment in which all things will be made new — with fresh memories to be forged and fostered. He is one of countless others, your father or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter, whose portraits remind us that we all await the ultimate promise of eternity.
In the meantime, I realize more than ever the value of the present. Memories cannot be forged in the past or future. They must be created now. There is no room for “should’ve.” Gloria Gaither aptly expressed it in lyrics: “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand. Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”
A benevolent Father who holds the past and present and future in His hands looks down upon this aging planet — waxing old like a garment, Scripture says.
Does He have a wall somewhere with portraits of His family? Is there a special section for those grown weary, fainthearted and faithless? Does He wait at the gates of Orion, counting the hours until the reunion?
After all, these children are more than just memories. He chose them before the foundations of the world and knit them together in their mothers' wombs.
Their names are still graven indelibly upon His palms.