My parents helped make that abstraction concrete this Christmas by giving all of my brothers and me a remarkable gift: fifty years of over 8,000 family photographs professionally restored onto a set of CDs. Their gift allows us to watch fifty years roll by, fifty years of particular faces and places that enriched—and were enriched by—this lasting marriage. These photographs give shape to an amorphous fifty years, and they also stand as a beautiful symbol of the most important lesson my parents have taught me: the lesson of connectedness.
Reflecting on the experience since then, I realized how this gift from my parents symbolizes what it really is they have given us all these years, what their life together has been all about—they have taught us a rare and precious lesson not everyone is fortunate enough to learn, this side of paradise. My mom and dad have taught us that we are part of something much greater than ourselves. While we live quite full day-to-day lives, we are connected to our past, and we are headed toward our future. And our ultimate goal, of course, is nothing less than heaven.
I watched the photos roll past, and I watched the faces of the grandchildren looking at the screen, and I felt peaceful to be part of loving (if not exactly perfect) family which has a disproportionate share of fabulous stories. I saw photos of those who have gone before us: our grandparents, and friends, and my sister and brother; and I felt blessed to know that they are also part of our story, that their stories have reached the conclusion we all hope for.
My parents' gift and life lesson show me that, as delightful and as heartbreaking as life can be, we are never alone. To be honest, being one of eight children, I sometimes wished I could have been alone! Or maybe I just wanted to have all the time I needed in the shared bathroom. But we are not alone. We are connected to our past, and to our future. We are connected with one another. Most astonishing of all, we are connected with God, who gently draws us closer and closer to the Heart of Jesus. Christmas reminds us just how God chose to connect with us, by actually becoming one of us.
I am deeply grateful for the lesson that we are connected with one another as a great big family, which is in turn connected with the entire family of God. As full as life and family and anniversary parties can be, we are invited to something much greater, something eternal. Because fifty years is almost as close to eternal as my little brain can handle, my parents' faithfulness serves as a powerful symbol of God's generous and lasting love for us. What hope this gives me! What faith in God. What love.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.