Creating a Memory

Last month, I highlighted my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. I (and my parents) appreciate the responses that I received. I thought I would go a little deeper on one specific story.

On August 16, 1977, my father had open heart surgery at the Swedish-American Hospital in Rockford, Illinois. The doctors were able to correct a valve defect that today is repaired in the hearts of the very young. (By the way, I can easily recall the date of this surgery because it was the date of the death of Elvis Presley. In fact, my dad accuses me of remembering more about Elvis than him!)

As a person in his early forties, my father had already been involved in farming for over 30 years. The heart surgery left him feeling especially vulnerable to the cold of winter. In January of 1981, my mother and father took a trip to Florida and while visiting Pastor Bob and Jean Westenbroek and a few other people, they decided they would sell the farm and move to Florida and that is what we did.

I still remember a telephone call from Florida where my dad asked me “Do you think you can be a lawyer in Florida?” As a junior at Trinity Christian College, I said – “I think so, but I do have to go to law school first.” And that is just part of the reason that this hog farmer’s son from Illinois ended up going to the University of Florida Law School.

What I do know is that memories are worth making and that God works through our memories.

The summer of 1981 went by quickly. We sold the farm and began packing up what we could to start a new life in Lake Worth, Florida. We moved and I finished my summer by working for a building contractor in the Florida heat.

Just before I was to head back to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, for my senior year of college, my dad said that he wanted us (mother, father and my brother and sister) to all get up early and head to the beach. My dad was and is not a beach person. Sand has rarely touched his toes.

“Why?” We cried out as young people who liked our morning sleep. “Why?” Our plaintive question was dripping with murmuring and grumbling, but we did get up.

We drove in the dark and came to the ocean. We sat at the beach and then we saw the sun come up and begin lighting the sky in splendid colors. My dad was satisfied and said something like it was good for us to see the sunrise over the ocean before we headed to breakfast at Johnny G’s.

I now look back and think about that morning being a key family moment. My sister would be married in October and start life with her husband. The next time I returned to Florida I was blessed to be engaged to Jackie. Our lives were changed forever in 1981. We moved from Fulton to Florida. We came down as one family and then added to that family with spouses and eventually children.

I now look back and think about my father and mother wanting to create one more family memory before a son moved back to college and maybe even create a memory that would draw him back to the sunshine of Florida. It takes work to make memories. You never know how the memory will live on or what might cause it to be recalled. What I do know is that memories are worth making and that God works through our memories.

Why else would Jesus have said at the last Passover and the first Communion – “Do this in remembrance of me.” We are people who need and who are nourished by memories!

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