Blessings All

Years ago, I found this little slip of paper while I was cleaning out my desk. I recognized it as a note included with the calendar that my grandfather sent every year around Thanksgiving. This homemade calendar included birthdays and anniversaries for my grandparents’ children and their spouses, their grandchildren and their spouses and all of the great grandchildren born to date. Despite long distances, philosophical differences, and ordinary family dysfunction, the calendar literally tethered 50 people and 100 years of lives and relationships. Each year when I received it, I was reminded that my grandparents provided a centripetal focus for all of our orbits. Through them, we each remained in some form of relationship with one another and vitally connected both to our ancestry and also to our legacy.

Our memory of the past defines our hope for the future.

Something about the note must have resonated with me at the time, because I tucked it in a drawer to be discovered and considered another day. When it emerged during my desk cleaning, my Dad was declining with dementia. At the time, we were working hard to hold together the pieces of a life that was determined to unravel. Despite our attentive and creative efforts, the world continued to become more and more unfamiliar and confusing every day. On some days, the note seemed to taunt me, demanding that I figure out how to retain enough memories (for me and for Dad) that we could also both find hope in this very hopeless situation. On other days, the message simply seemed mis-guided. Dad did not have memories to rely on at all and did not seem to forecast towards the future. I noticed, though, that he fully lived the present moments that arrived throughout each day. Each new moment was greeted with openness and curiosity. Unhinged from expectation, a certain freedom emerged. I learned to follow his lead and soon found myself somewhat released from past and future too.

Our memory of the past defines our hope for the future.

Eventually I reconciled with the note. Memory of the past and hope for the future can be important tethers, like the calendar. They connect us to an ancient future and a distant past that keep us grounded in awareness and responsibility. They hold us in relationship with the rest of creation over all time and place, and remind us that we are a part of the whole. But neither memory nor hope can shape our relationships or our actions. Those are best tended in each moment.

Blessings All

The slip of paper still sits on my desk where I can see it often. It still makes me think of my grandfather and his calendar. It also makes me think of my Dad and the love and good living that we shared when we released past and future and, instead, walked purposefully into each present moment of his last few years. It reminds me to appreciate memories and hope while giving my care and attention to those who are with me and the work that is at hand now.

The note no longer teases or frustrates me. It strengthens my resolve to contribute to healing and wholeness. It focuses my attention on the world that my children are inheriting. Their hope for the future is in the words and actions of the young people and adults around them who speak and act with compassion for others and for the living earth now. Their hope hinges on what we do today. For today, I will honor each arising moment with memory and hope — and with an open heart, a clear mind, honest words and actions, and good intentions.

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