Love, like a carefully loaded ship
crosses the gulf between the generations…
We live, not by things, but by the passwords
from generation to generation.
--Antoine de Saint Exupery
As I read these words above in my morning meditation time, I began to reflect on my time with my dad and the family over the past week with them in Virginia where they live. My dad (pictured above) is 93, mentally very sharp, though finds his physical self growing more and more limitations, which have changed his quality of life significantly in the past year. Mom died 11 years ago, and this picture depicts how he still misses her daily. My siblings and I were blessed with a parents who loved each other and modeled for us a relationship of love and care for others.
As I read the words by de Saint Exupery, I began to think of the words that are "passwords" of my past, of the things that I expect to see in my family home, of the decisions my 7 siblings and I will have to "sort through" in the future, whenever that may be.
What gives meaning to this "stuff"? What makes the experience of returning to the home I grew up in one that I want to keep returning to again and again. I have been blessed to be in this home with family for 54 Christmases now. This struck me this year, in part because I wondered if this would be the last one. Whether it is or not, I am aware that the physical building, the furniture, the knick knacks that sit around, the stuff in the basement and closets are not what matter. It is how this place and these things have allowed us to grow up and learn to be in relationship with each other as family. How we loved, how we fought, how we were disciplined, how we celebrated milestones and growth as persons, how we lived faith and experienced disappointments. This place has given us a place to gather and remain as family over the years, even when we "left home". We continue to return. Where will that "place" be when we have left this behind?
So when I read these words in my morning quiet time, I was struck with how the place represents family, togetherness, the source of my life, even as I know it now over 500 miles away from there. I am so grateful for this. And no matter what lies ahead, it will continue to ground me in what is important, and bear meaning to who I am--not so much the physical place, but what it represents. I have been reminded that it is not the physical place or the things that I return to, but the meaning-making in my life that has foundationally made me who I am. Our family's passwords that have been passed along through the generations include words such as, "family", "faith", "service" and "music".
What are your passwords that move things and daily life into meaningful experiences?