Every Life is a Story, A Story Known Fully by God – A Meditation on a Moving Video

062813When my Father lay dying, I remember that one of the losses I began to grieve was that he was the keeper of many family stories. He was the one who could look at an old family photograph and tell you who they all were and something about each of them. As I saw him lying there, no longer able to talk much, I thought of all the memories stored up in his mind, all the stories, all the people he once knew and had spoken so vividly of.

And not only the family stories, but he was also a great historian and a great wellspring of the classics. He had read all the “Great Books” all of Shakespeare, all of Sacred Scripture, so many other worthy writings, and had memorized many lengthy quotes.

Such an encyclopedic mind, vivid thoughts, vivid memories, the keeper of the family story. And though I knew he’d take it with him in his soul, there was a grief to me that his magnificent mind was now closing to me. I regret I did not more carefully retain all he told me.

Thankfully he had written a family history that stays with us, and all his many photos and family films, that we worked to preserve, stay with us. We his sons, are moving much of this to digital, but it took Dad’s living presence to really bring these things home.

The video below put me in this reflective mind. It is of an old man who lays dying. And in various flashbacks we see his life, told almost as if from God’s perspective. We see his story, his good moments and tragedies. And then he passes.

I remember a Bible verse my father had jotted down on the frontispiece of a book he was reading at the time of his own father’s death:

But as for man, his days are like the grass, or as the flower that flourishes in the field. The wind blows, and he is gone, and his place never sees him again. (Psalm 103:16)

Reading that, as a very young teenager, I realized, for the first time that the Bible was very beautiful and I was startled to think that the house in which I was sitting would one day “never see me again.” All the stories, all the memories, gone with the proverbial winds.

The photo at the upper right is the last picture I ever took of my father. He standing in front of the family home. This was taken as he was leaving it for the last time. He moved into a retirement community for a brief while, but he was not long for this world. And, there he is, standing in front of the place that “never sees him again.”

Yes, there is something very precious about our memories, our stories. They are meant to be shared, handed down. But something irreplaceable, dies with each person. A very personal glimpse of history, a very personal story, something that can never be fully shared with anyone, no one but the Lord.

Only the Lord really knows our story, knows it better than we ourselves:

O LORD, you search me and you know me.
You yourself know my resting and my rising;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down;
you know all my ways through and through.

Before ever a word is on my tongue,
you know it, O LORD, through and through….

For it was you who formed my inmost being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you who wonderfully made me;

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
and molded in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me yet unformed;

and all my days were recorded in your book,
before one of them came into being…

at the end I am still at your side… (Ps 139:varia)

Yes, the Lord knows. He knows all about us.

An old spiritual says, Nobody knows the trouble I seen, Nobody but Jesus. For in the end, he is the keeper of every story, my father’s, my own, yours. And whatever is lost in death will be restored a hundredfold, with understanding besides, in the great parousia. Not a story, not a word will be lost, but we shall recover it all, and tell the old, old stories once again.

Enjoy this poignant and moving video of a man’s life, almost as if told from the standpoint of God, the God who knows. Though the man seems to die alone, someone is remembering his story. Maybe it’s God doing the remembering:

17 Replies to “Every Life is a Story, A Story Known Fully by God – A Meditation on a Moving Video”

  1. When we have parents who have loved us unselfishly and unconditionally we realize how truly blessed we have been. Nothing can replace the love of parents for their Children. So much easier it is to contemplate and reflect on the love between the Father and the Son and their unending love for us. I lost both my parents within 3 months of each other, one death was expected the other came abruptly. Its been over 10 years now but I still miss them and at times can imagine them laughing while sharing wonderful stories about family members. So many times we would roar with laughter at something outlandish one of my aunts and uncles had done. My consolation……… I know they are with God. They were good Catholics who lived simply but ardently for their faith. They demanded their Children develop morals, values and principals and would take us to task when we did not live up to their expectations.( I am glad they did, it was a form of discipline) So Father for your Dad and for my parents I pray this prayer: Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord and may perpetual light shine upon them and may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace AMEN!

  2. I heard someone say, “I wish there were visiting hours in Heaven”… wouldn’t that be nice, but we can pray and our prayers are most certainly heard.

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  3. Lovely video. We all have to say “good-bye” at some point. My constant prayer is that we will all see each other on the other side.

    “Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

  4. Thanks for making me cry Monsignor. Poignant thoughts and video. Both my parents are still living but are getting up there in years. They are unfortunately very far away from me and we only get to visit every year or two. The part of the video with boy wishing with his father was particularly moving as some of my favourite moments with my father were fishing. I myself have two sons seven and eleven and I often think when they are older I hope what they will remember is the fishing trips and the hikes in the woods.

  5. A very timely blogpost for me Msgr. I just returned from SC yesterday after a week-long trip to begin packing up my 79 year old father’s belongings. He has liver disease, among other illnesses, and can no longer live alone. We are having a room built onto our house now to accommodate him to live with us for however long he has left. We hope to hsve him here by Septrmber. Amid the challenges ahead of us, we recognize that it will be a blessing. God has worked miracles in my relationship with my dad and I am at such peace. God is so merciful and loving.

    Your reflections about your father ring true for me as well and I wish that my memory worked half as good as my dad’s! This season of his life has also reminded me that I have too much stuff, most of which is unnecessary. Almost all of it gets tossed out at the end and what you keep, you can’t take with you!

  6. Ralph Samspon and Manute Bol were two of the tallest players to ever play in the NBA and toward the end of their careers they both played for the Golden State Warriors. Don Nelson was coaching Golden State then and he had a fondness for very tall players could change the the opposing team’s offense just by walking onto the court. Anyway, my dad was in an airport in CA one time, and Ralph Sampson and Manute Bol were standing at the counter together. So, my dad just went and stood in between the two, for no other reason that to stand in between two of the tallest players to ever play in the NBA.

  7. A truly moving piece. The problem today is the past is so quickly forgotten in the quest to embrace the new that people tend to keep making the same mistakes over and over because they neglect all that was placed before them.

    I wish I had my grandfather’s meatball recipe.

  8. When I wrote the original version of a book that I expect I will continue to rewrite ‘forever’, and that I don’t expect to complete, it ‘revealed’ many different ‘disturbances’. My first writing was ‘therapeutic’. The rewriting takes it to another level, which in short is a kind of paradigm to how stories can indeed be rewritten, and ‘lives’ reinterpreted. I take as a primal example, the Lord’s descent into ‘hell’ and the transformation of the damned of ages past. I too believe that ‘stories’ can be made anew, and have this ‘hope’ for myself. I wonder even if ths is what ‘purgatory’ is all about. My story is indeed known to God. Perhaps I simply have to ‘understand’ it better; rewrite the ‘bad’ parts through forgiveness and love. Is this allowed as an interpretation, and belief and faith that my story will have a ‘happy ending’?

  9. Your writing about your family is so touching Msgr. Our lives are a “wave of the hand” I think Mary said once in an apparition. My folks died 25-30 years ago. I think of them, miss them, every day. My dad was almost 50 when I was born, so I mostly remember him taking naps, but he had a tenor voice better than Perry Como. He had a hard life. There are no ordinary people, CS Lewis said. All are immortal beings with whom we are called to live forever.

  10. This touched me so deeply. I just lost my daddy in November. Thank you.

  11. This is so moving! I can relate to everything you have written Monsignor because the way you describe your father reminds me a lot of mine. When my father died, I started reading some of his favorite books, one of them is Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”. The death of a parent is terrifying and also very formative. But it’s been many years since mine died, I think of them everyday and pray for them. One thing I admire of old people is that they certainly had a great sense of surval and were very strong through their lives because they had to adapt to various life styles, move to various homes and they had to say goodbye to many loved ones.

  12. Everybody has a story. But the stories of our parents and grandparents are from a time when life was much simpler. When people were mostly laborers and came home after each days work. When families lived in the same general area. When everyone knew all their neighbors and everybody kept an eye out for each other and each others children. When weekends, especially Sundays, meant time spent with family….all the family, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents and yes even the neighbors. Those are the times I wish my children had grown up with more. My Father-In-Law was our story teller, he is now gone. He was an Italian baker along with his brothers and the baker shop, as he called it, was right behind their home. Baking, packing, delivering and people stopping by to just shoot the breeze, and of course all the Italian loud yelling, oh, I mean talking. Then came Saturday when all the family came together, along with close friends and neighbors to share a meal and laughter under the bakery pavilion as the children played games together in the alley and neighborhood. Today’s generation is growing up in a more fast paced society where families are scattered all over the country, the world. Where the corporate world is home to many moms and dads and daycare to the children. Where grandparents no longer live close by their grandchildren, families don’t have time, or make time to get together. This generation’s stories will be much different; possibly more worldly. Who, I wonder, besides God, will be hearing their life’s stories….because their children, like themselves, may move on to newer pastures or will be too busy to listen. Memories are what brings us together and brings our past to our present. Thank you Msgr. for your wonderful articles and insights!

  13. My Papa died when I was 9 yrs. old. I am now 67 but to this day, I can almost hear his contagious laughter, see his dimpled face and sparkling eyes, dark wavy hair with its one curl falling down his forehead. I recall his gentle “discipling” like when my sister (5 yrs. older) and I fought, he’d make us face each other, say “I’m sorry” and MADE us HUGGGG!!! UGH! He loved working in our back yard gardening, feeding chickens, dogs, cats, or whatever decided to call our home theirs. I remember that he made stilts for us girls. Anyone know what they are? (a wooden pole w/a pc of wood to place our feet. He’d help us up and he taught us how to balance on them and start “walking!” That was so much fun!! He also gave us rides on his wheelbarrow. Taught us how to hatch eggs too. I could go on and on. You get the picture. He was an absolutely funny, kind, handsome, self-taught professional (editor of local newspaper and columnist), loving, grateful and happy soul even though in his short life of 56 he had gone through many trials and hard times. Did I say he was loving? He knew his God in his own way. He was not given the opportunity to learn our beautiful and rich Catholic faith; he was orphaned at a very young age. I miss him. Hope to finish my years after 9 with him in Heaven.

  14. Times of loss are very difficult to bear, thank you for the prayer in your blog.

    Thank you also for showing your humanity as you teach. Prayers for you and yours.

  15. Thanks for finally talking about > Do we need to set aside the Word "Marriage" and use "Holy Matrimony" exclusively?
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