those that go before us…

Our common heart cry–the pursuit of health and happiness. With different circumstances, different political or historical backgrounds, different characters, but throughout humanity, a similar plot.

Characters in the backdrop of our lives shift and the plot of our lives don’t unfold like an organized story arc in a literary novel. Truth is stranger than fiction: our lives reveal it. Instead, we experience a messy clump of scenes piling one on top of another–no particular order, sometimes no discernible meaning, though we try to make sense of it all.

Throughout history, we seek food and shelter, creative or athletic ambitions, scientific or technological curiosities. We’ve tried to find purpose in our work, all recognizing that one day, it will come to an end here.

Most of us pursue the ‘doing good to others’; sometimes slowly recognizing there are consequences to our every choice. We do this all now–and those that have gone before us have done this all before.

I find it curious that the Old Colony Mennonites from my paternal lineage left Manitoba to Mexico so they could live without government interference in their children’s education. I’ll bet there’s more to this story; more than one reason for the move. But they did want to teach and train their children in their own way, and this they did freely 70 miles west of Chihuahua, Mexico. Those that went before me valued the same things.

We stopped at Swiss Chalet one evening, raised our glasses to Eileen, remembering that the last time we’d been here, we were with her. Eileen had been a lady we’d made regular coffee visits to see–she was outspoken, declared her dislike of the old people in the cafeteria of the senior’s home where she lived–they did nothing every single day, and she didn’t want any of it. She billowed verve–sharing stories of puttering around these semi-arid hills delivering milk in her father’s dairy truck, telling stories of her older sister Georgine ziplining on her birthday, her 93rd birthday! Eileen was exasperated, her lungs were up to no good, and she wanted the solution, now.

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Then one day after a trip, I called to see if she was available for lunch and the front clerk let me know, ‘I’m sorry, Eileen passed away last week’. One day she was there to squeeze my son’s cheeks and croon over his winsome smile, and the next, she was plucked from our story. Those that go before us nurtured our families.

Then there’s Terri & Arieanna (names changed, but you know who you are) grounding me in their stories of teenagehood, adolescence, the age where anything might happen, and the unpredictable often does. The stories make for sleepless nights and compelling reasons for prayer. Their stories might not have matched mine as I tucked my little ones in by eight and decided on the best approach to ongoing sibling conflict. But I was hearing the stories, grappling with the ‘what would I do’ when my kiddos are that age.

Once I recall a bewildering discussion that went like this…

Older mom:Ya, when my kids were babies and toddlers, they needed me. But not like they need me now that they’re teenagers“.

My response:How could that possibly be? You don’t have to run around fixing everything they break, keeping them from a trip to the emerg or another call to poison control. Falling off counters. Whapping each other with Barbie dolls“.

Older mom:Huh. Um, ya, that was work,” pause…”Adolescence is harder“.

Toddlerhood is preparation for the bigger stuff. Bigger kids, bigger problems. Seeing is believing. Turns out, she was right. Those that go before us share a lot of wisdom.

One generation imbibes the next, nurtures the next, leads the next.

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“We clasp the hands of those that go before us.

And the hands of those who come after us.

We enter the little circle of each other’s arms.

And the larger circle of lovers, Whose hands are joined in a dance.

And the larger circle of all creatures.

Passing in and out of life, Who move also in a dance, To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it

Except in fragments”.

Wendell Berry