Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In With the New, Out With the Old

A few weeks ago, we started the process of moving our possessions into our new home in Texas. In addition to a collection of boxes and furniture which comprised our belongings while we living in our two-bedroom apartment, everything else that we had to our name - our furniture, electronics, clothing, toys, books - came out of the local warehouse where it had been sat in storage over the past five months, awakened from a long journey back in March from New Jersey.

This is our fourth move as a family, so this isn't our first rodeo in terms of packing boxes and the general stress of figuring out how objects in one context ought to be presented in a new one. However, this is our first corporate move, our first move of significant distance, and consistent with a growing family, the largest move in terms of scale and scope.

In a previous post, I had waxed on the concept of home. Now that we've moved in and are settling into our new digs, I'll acknowledge that there's a greater sense of comfort and establishment, though my words still very much stand. And even as boxes are opened and trinkets are placed on mantles, it's heartening to see things which are familiar and comfortable, like that childhood teddy bear.

But not everything that we unpacked found a place in our new home. First of all, there were things that came out of boxes which fell into the category of "this-is-garbage-why-did-we-even-keep-this"; others which fell into the category of "there's-nowhere-to-put-this"; and the occasional "snow-related-items-aren't-needed-in-Houston" objects. Conversely, we found ourselves in Home Depot, Target and Walmart purchasing items which we realized that we needed and didn't have.

This led me to two main thoughts:

First, I mentioned the concept of home and comfort.  As nice as it was to get our furniture back and sleep on our familiar bed, familiar relationships are the things that really bring comfort. That regular weekly visit to the grandparents, the neighbor with whom you walk to the train station, the recurring Community Group potluck dinner - these are things that provide some degree of familiarity and comfort. We're grateful and blessed to see some of those starting to grow where we currently live and over time, those will too be sense of great comfort and familiarity.

Second, all of the things coming in and out of the house is a microcosm of life. As we move into different seasons, our lives change. Some things stay the same, but a lot of things don't. And as life gets uncluttered and slowly moves into focus, there's a balance between wistfully letting go of certain things and bringing into one's life things that will become increasingly prominent. But the good news is that the the greatest source of familiarity and comfort - at least to a Christian - is constant. Boxes go out of the house, boxes come into the house, but God and His love stay the same.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Small Town Grief

I grew up in a upstate New York suburb not too far from New York City which, I suspect, wasn't terribly different than many suburbs in the New York metropolitan area located in Connecticut, New Jersey or Long Island. The proximity to the city made us worldly and cosmopolitan enough to keep us from feeling "small-town", but at the core, the community marked by the Pearl River school district (comprised of Pearl River and parts of Orangeburg, Tappan and Nanuet) had that friendly small-town feel. My graduating class was less than 140 people and every student was at least acquainted with any other student, and by extension, parents knew each other. When tragedy struck, everyone in that town felt. And if you were a student, this tragedy was something that defined part of your time at the school, sort of a "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" or "Where were you when the space shuttle Challenger blew up?" sort of thing.

I remember three tragedies during my time at Pearl River. When I was in elementary school and my older brother had just started high school, a young lady named Paula Bohovesky was raped and murdered. When I was in middle school, Keith Savarese, the former quarterback of our football team, commit suicide during a visit home from college his freshman year. But what sticks in my mind most vividly is the death of Alicia Brady in a car accident. Because I was a senior at the time and her brother was a classmate, the impact of her loss hit home a little closer. I remember standing in a line for her wake which stretched for a half a mile down Franklin Avenue.

This came to mind recently when our small town was hit twice in recent weeks. I had read about the deadly Hudson River boat crash which killed the bride-to-be and best man-to-be on not realizing until a friend told me that the surviving groom was the brother of a girl who used to be in our high school social clique. And a week ago, we lost a classmate, Malini. after a heroic battle with brain cancer (and a little more than two years ago, we lost another classmate, Michael, to stomach cancer). 

I'm sure that this story isn't unique. Every adult has a school that they left behind and classmates with whom bonds still exist through Facebook or a network of friends. And even if I haven't talked to overwhelming majority of these classmates in years, I can't help but grieve when I think of their death and the families they've left behind.

I remember Malini as being the friendly girl who lived in our neighborhood on Fort Lee Place, the same street as young chums Jimmy Acheson, J.P. Yore, Neil Fabella and Alex Meyers. I remember warm conversations in the library and on the bus around track and school. As for Michael Bohn, I remember a happy-go-lucky guy always with a smile on his face. I also fondly remember him mooning the substitute teacher in 7th grade twice... and getting caught in the act the second time around. I'm also heartened, as I read through their respective battles with cancer, is that their faith in God grew and became all the more central to their lives even to the end.

And sadly, these stories won't be the last. My classmates and I are getting older, and the high school illusions of immortality are giving way to family responsibilities, work responsibilities and high cholesterol. I guess the challenge to the rest of us remaining classmates is: What legacy will we leave behind? And for those of us who are graced with at least one more year on this earth than Mike and Malini got, how will we be good stewards of these gifts?