Some nights, when there are no clouds, I look up at the night sky hoping to see so many twinkling stars. But the lights of the city are bright where I live. They can obscure the lights of the heavens and thus make it difficult to notice anything more than the most brilliant of stars.
At my dad’s farm, miles and miles away from the city, it’s a different story. A seemingly different sky.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of stars illuminate the darkness. Such a delight to gaze at them. I can’t help but stare, to look from east to west and north to south, then pause frequently along the way to fix on one that seems particularly shiny or particularly “twinkly.”
You know what stars really are to us earthlings, don’t you? They are memories. It takes so long for the light from a star to reach our planet that the actual moment of luminosity we see occurred years and years ago. Other than the sun, the light from the next-closest star takes four years to reach our eyes. The light from some other stars we can see with the naked eye takes up to 1,000 years to get here.
Just bright memories …
I don’t like things in life that are “just memories.” Especially people. I’m not even close to retirement age yet, but I already have had a full life of meeting people. Neighborhood and grade-school playmates and teammates, buddies from high school and college, old girlfriends and teachers.
Attending the same parish for 38 years, I made many friends there along the way. I spent 23 years as a professional newspaper writer and got to know literally hundreds of coaches and athletes on the high school, college and professional levels. I became friends with fellow journalists across the country — especially the men and women with whom I proudly worked for so long at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And I have a large family.
All of the friends of my four children and their parents, all of the friends of my very active parents, all of my new friends after we switched parishes some years ago, hundreds of people I met on retreats the last 35 years — so many memories.
They are like twinkling lights in a starry sky. Some nights, the memories are obscured and I barely can make them out. Other nights, the sense is so strong that it feels I am right there with them.
I could be in awe and grateful. Instead, to be honest, it can make me feel a tad lonely.
I hate to let people go from my life. I don’t like for them to become “just memories.” My therapist has tried to help me understand the theory that God sends some people into our lives for a specific period of time and for a certain reason, then just as quickly God sends those people away.
Sometimes, those people played a huge role in my life for a long time, for years — people I worked with at the Post-Dispatch, for instance. Other people entered my life briefly — maybe on a weekend retreat three decades ago or for a few weeks last year at my outpatient therapy group. I no longer see any of the people from that group now, even though some of their words of encouragement were profoundly helpful. I have contact with very few of the people from my newspaper days, even though I miss some of them every day.
I remember the birthdays of many of those people as if they were close family members. Songs and ballgames and books and trinkets and countless other “little things” poke my memory banks. Some of those people have passed and I still grieve over them, but in prayer I ask my grandparents, my high school friend Janet, my little cousin Gary and several other people to intercede for me and loved ones each day.
I also grieve over those people who are still alive but don’t sparkle with immediacy in my life. They are people with whom I have lost touch against my judgment or wishes. I miss them. I wonder why they had to disappear.
Thanks to Facebook, I at least have gotten to say hello to a few of them and get occasional updates on their lives. But there was something special that happened with many of those people and I don’t know how to recapture them.
So I remember. I say prayers of thanksgiving and hope. I recall the lessons and blessings gained from knowing them.
And I look to the sky in expectation.