My parents are moving. At 84 and 86 they are once again packing up their bags, lives, and their hearts and heading for a new place, a new space.
They have done this many times before – the routine is not new. But that struggle of change versus permanence is written all over this move. They are leaving a community they love, they are leaving an area that has become home.
Watching this move is part comedy, part tragedy.
My mom comes up to me whispering “Your father wants to keep that!” Her eyes roll and I giggle. My dad hears the giggle and comes in and we try to hide “that”.
Or my dad looks at the casserole dishes and pans on the kitchen counter and says in a barely audible voice “Boy, we have a lot of kitchen stuff! Do you think we need all that?” He shakes his head and goes off to rescue an efficiency light bulb from my mom’s give away pile.
I take a banana out of an old tin dish that has a floral pattern with a bird in the center. It’s a pretty dish but I need to ask “Do you want to keep this”. She pauses “You know! That belonged to Ralph’s mother – Ralph – what do you think?” Big Mistake. “Oh if it belonged to my mother we keep it.” “Ralph, we’re the kind that would be on the Antique Road Show and they would interview us and we would have to say ‘Yes, we brought this old thing but we found out it’s worth…..Nothing!'” She shakes her head in disgust.
I love these two people. So. Dearly.
When I asked my mom how many times she had moved she said “Oh I don’t know! I would have to sit down and count!” They have ‘set their hearts on pilgrimage and they go from strength to strength’; whether it be a small town in Massachusetts or a small city in Pakistan, the strength is the same.
And I don’t have to ask the secret of their strength. It’s in the index cards taped on the refrigerator or sitting by the bedside. It’s in the prayers that are prayed each morning and evening. It’s in the decisions they make from big to small. Their secret will never make it to Oprah – it’s far too big and good.
Their secret is in the Psalms and Proverbs, Genesis and Revelation, in the Alpha and Omega.
A tea cup sits empty by my mom’s bedside, a yellow index card full of writing beside it. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
The verse is written in my mom’s familiar handwriting and sits at the top of a stack of cards an inch high. Each one is filled with verses, written evidence of her strength.
Though they are surrounded by boxes and tensions come and go, their foundation is rock-solid and depends not on the contents of the boxes, nor where those boxes ultimately land. Their dwelling place is secure, secure and strong as the words written on cards placed at the bedside.