One of our favorite things about living in Boston was our church, Hope Fellowship. We felt more like members of a family than members of a church.
The Brown family has been part of Hope Fellowship from its beginning. We didn’t get a chance to know Jeff and Carolynne very well. For a good part of the time we attended Hope Fellowship they were away. The Browns had one son, Grant. Grant was only a toddler when we lived there, but he never seemed like a baby to me. He always struck me as an old soul, a little man trapped in his tiny body. Grant was certainly the sunshine of his parents’ lives. You didn’t have to be around the Browns for any time to see how much they all loved each other.
On July 23, 2013, six-year-old Grant died after a horrible accident at day camp. Hope Fellowship has done what families do when a member needs support. They’ve provided meals, transportation, lodging….anything Jeff and Carolynne need. But they can’t provide everything they want or need. No one on earth can. No one can give Grant back to them.
The church created a website to help spread information and solicit help for the Browns. On the site, they published a picture slide show the family used in Grant’s memorial service. I watched the video today. Picture after picture flashed across my screen. While I watched, I thought of all the pictures I have in my photo library, so similar to the ones I was seeing.
Times like these always remind me of how fragile life is. How none of us is guaranteed one last picture. Every time I hear about a tragedy like this, I tell myself I’m going to be more intentional. I try to carpe diem and celebrate the every day moments just in case everything ends without warning. I go into my babies’ rooms and watch them sleep, trying to freeze time and the memory forever. I try as hard as I can to make every second count.
But then it’s Monday and someone left the milk out again. We’re out of toilet paper and the library books are overdue. For Pete’s sake, the kids won’t stop touching each other and I could not care less who did what to the other one first. Sometimes I can’t wait for those moments to slip through my hands. Sometimes the minutes are hard and I’m tired and I don’t feel joyful about unloading the same dishwasher I’ve already unloaded seven times this week.
Big Mama’s daughter just had a birthday. Her posts about Caroline usually strike a chord with me because my daughter (and youngest son) are only a few months younger. I feel like our children have grown up together even though I’ve never even been in the same room with Big Mama or Caroline. In her post about Caroline turning ten, Big Mama said this:
Time is fragile. You can’t catch it. You can’t hold onto it. You can’t make it go backwards. It slips right through your fingers and you’re left wondering what happened to the last year or five years or ten years. You remember the high points and the low points, but it’s the every day moments that get lost in the shuffle. I would give my right arm to have one more morning with you as a chubby two year old cuddled up next to me watching Sesame Street.
My oldest will be thirteen in less than half a year. My first baby will be a teenager. Like most boys he doesn’t talk about feelings and matters of the heart very often, so when he does, I need to be ready to listen. Unfortunately, he usually is ready to talk at times I find inconvenient at best, like this evening when I was driving the kids home through downtown Honolulu in traffic down an unfamiliar road. I wanted to say encouraging things like, “Oh really? Tell me more!” or “How did you feel about that?” but I was thinking, “Oh, my word, I can’t hear myself think!” and “Did I just miss my turn? I think I just missed my turn!” I compromised and listened as best as I could while navigating through lane changes and uncooperative drivers, giving an occasional nod and “Hmmm…” as encouragement to continue.
Being present and assigning meaning to the minutes is hard sometimes. It requires us to slow down and be still and quiet. We have to notice, really notice, what is happening around us and stop trying to fast forward to the next scene.
I constantly need to be reminded to slow down and be in my life. Tonight, Grant’s video is what reminded me to pay closer attention to my people. Left to my own devices, I would plow through many days, with the goal of surviving and no thought to relishing. I’d look without seeing, hear without listening, eat without tasting, and touch without feeling. I wish being intentional were more automatic for me. I wish I didn’t need for someone else’s deepest pain to be the impetus to slow down and love wholeheartedly with my full attention.
But tonight that’s exactly what I needed. And I decided to write about it in case it’s something you needed to hear today, too.
Do you struggle with letting the days pass without really noticing them? My friend Candace read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts and she has been listing what makes her grateful every day, usually accompanied by her beautiful photos. What do you do to remind yourself to be more grateful and intentional as a parent, spouse, friend?
My favorite people after a memory-making afternoon spent fishing this weekend. Cue the Andy Griffith theme.