Share the Stories, Say Their Names

Today I sat in a church that holds memories of important days for me and added one more.  I sat there, saying goodbye to a man who taught me Physical Science in college.  And so much more.

It was a privilege sitting with others who love and miss him, listening to the one who was closest to him share his stories–some from as far back as 51 years and others as recent as four days ago, when this wonderful man took his last breath and the room was filled with peace.

As the stories were told, I was mesmerized.  I love listening to stories.  Maybe some folks were antsy, wondering how much longer, but all I could think of was More.  Please tell me one more.

Afterward I did get to hear more.  As people gathered around the tables heavy laden with foods, savory and sweet, they shared their memories.  Laughter and tears flowed freely.  Hugs were given again and again.  Old friends were reunited, and new friends were introduced.  The sun was shining, and the promised rain never came.

Only a gentle breeze that offered refreshment and relief from the afternoon heat.

Tonight I’m thinking about those stories, and how people from many different parts of this one man’s life came together to honor, remember, share, and listen.  There were people he’d taught, people he’d mentored, ones he’d worked with, others who worked for him, folks he worshipped alongside of, people who shared his love of camellias or music or books or good food…..

So many different people.  Gathered there in one place because of their love for this one very special person.

A beautiful thing to see and be in the midst of.

It was an added gift that I saw folks whom I love and have not seen in a long time.  I got to visit with women who were basically “rock stars” in my mind–they were prominent on my college campus when I was there.  I got to introduce them to my own Wesleyanne, and it warmed my soul to see her wrapped up in their stories from another time of the campus she loves so much.

I visited with a high school friend, and we laughed and laughed, and I know now why women go to the bathroom together.  It’s good to have a posse, y’all–no matter how many years go by between seeing each other.  My daughter looked at my friend’s daughter and could not believe how old they are both getting.  Yeah, that’s where life takes you, my girl.  Down a path that moves so quickly you are constantly surprised at how everything and everyone is changing.  It can be dizzying at times.

One of my favorite moments came when a family I’ve known for over thirty years came in and sat behind me in the church.  It was good to see their smiling faces.  I leaned over to my girl and whispered, “I babysat him once upon a time.”  Her eyes grew big as she took in the thirty-something year old man behind her.  “Wow,” she mouthed back.

His sweet Mama whom I remember from library events and school things–she’s dotted all through my childhood memories–leaned in to hug me.  “I love your blog,” she said.

Y’all.  That meant so much to me, yes.  To know that someone out there is reading these stories I share–and then her kind words.  Yes.  Thank you.  (I am humbled and honored when I discover that someone spends his/her time reading something I have written.)

But what meant the most to me was what she said next.  And she said it again in the hallway outside the bathroom in the parish hall.

“When I read them, I can see your Mama.  And I can hear her,” she said, smiling her beautiful smile.  “And your Daddy too.”

She knew my Mama–living in a small town, folks know just about everybody, but they volunteered together and well, she remembers.

And THAT meant everything to me.  She said their names, and she remembered.  I want to hold on to that moment for a long, long time.  In that moment, it was almost like I hadn’t completely lost them.

Today was about listening to stories.  And sharing them.  But most of all, today reminded me to speak the names of those whom we love who are no longer walking alongside us.  There is power in saying their names, in sharing their stories.  In that moment, we can bring their memory and stories to life and begin to heal the hearts of those who are hurting from the pain of missing the ones they love.  No matter how long it has been.

Whose story can you share today?  Who needs you to speak the name of one they love?  Whose story will you sit and listen to today?

Those stories, y’all.  They matter.  Some days, they’re all we have.

Love to all.

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