Friday, May 28, 2010


Yesterday, I had an email from my favorite college professor. I had read in the alumni newsletter that he'd received the "Excellence in Teaching Award" for the third time (a University record!), and had sent him a congratulatory email. The response I received touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Even though it had been nearly 20 years since I'd first sat in his classroom, he remembered me, with fondness and in exacting detail. I laughed at his strongest memories of me, the way that he recalled my thesis topic, the moment we shared on a street corner in Italy, after learning of the death of Justice Thurgood Marshall. I am humbled and awed at a connection that has remained after nearly 2 decades of time and distance.

Earlier in the day, we had the wonderful privilege of joining a gentleman from church on a romp through his childhood town. He drove us to the tiny church where he received his first Holy Communion as an eight year old boy. He shared stories from his childhood, stories from the years he spent raising eight children, and stories of falling in love with his wife of 50+ years. All the while, he drove, pointing out landmarks, filling the empty windows with real people who lived and died in this tiny farm town half a century ago.

We ended up at the farm where he was raised. More stories spilled forth as we rambled through grass shoulder-high to the kids, finally arriving at the cabin built by the hands of his children. My children climbed into the loft, giggles raining down on us. He led them on an expedition in search of the outhouse while I curled up on the porch swing, pond-gazing, deep-breathing, and prayer-offering. "Oh, I could stay right here forever," I told him when he returned with my kids, all smiles and laughter about the non-portable porto-potty.

Later, as I nestled next to DH and shared all the little moments of this day of connections, my eyes filled once more. My grandfather was just this sort of man. He would walk me through his neighborhood, one story after another. We'd sit on park benches, watching boats on the Hudson River, and I'd hear about childhood in Ireland, his mother, 11 siblings, the priests and teachers. Grandpa loved to share his stories with me; I could never get enough of them. In the end, I knew him because I knew his history.

He's been gone 19 years this August. From that point onward, I'll have lived longer without him than with him. Not a day goes by that I don't miss him. And I keep sharing his stories with my children, especially BigBro (his namesake), so that he will continue to be known.

Last night, on the couch with the man Grandpa never met (but would have loved), I remembered the stories. There were tears in my eyes, for the missing him and for the sharing and the knowing and the connecting that I had been gifted with that day. My friend is a very different person than my grandfather, but they have that one common trait: they shall be known by their stories. In sharing with me, opening the book of himself for us, it was almost as if, for a little while, Grandpa were here again.

All of these connections - my grandfather long gone to Heaven, my friend from morning mass, my old college professor - were bumping around in my head and my prayers last night and again this morning, when I read this on a blog I've been reading lately:

"Young and old, alive and dead, today I felt and knew the Communion of Saints through you in a poignant way. And I am grateful. Thank you God for family and friends."


Yep. That pretty much sums it up for me.

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